Music of Empire and Faith: The Gulbenkian Choir
This performance was recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery on June 23, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Composers and Works
Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
for ten voices, ten soloists, and continuo
Pero de Gamboa (1563?–1638)
O bone Jesu
Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro
Francisco António de Almeida (died ca. 1755)
O quam suavis 29:23–35:52
Justus ut palma 35:53–44:14
Beatus vir 56:56–1:06:11
Michel Corboz, conductor
Ana Quintans, soprano
Jonathan Rubin, theorbo
Thilo Hirsch, violone
Marcelo Giannini, organ
Mafalda Borges Coelho*
José Bruto da Costa*
Notes on the Program
The Lisbon-based Gulbenkian Choir performed sacred music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in conjunction with the 2007 Sackler exhibition Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The program included works by Portuguese composers Pedro de Bamboa (1563?–1638) and Francisco António de Almeida (died ca. 1755), as well as Italian composer Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), who for nine years served as royal chapel master to King João V of Portugal. These compositions—with lyrics taken from the Psalms, the New Testament, and medieval monastic poetry—reflect the same religious inspirations that informed Christian artwork created under Portuguese influence in India, China, and Japan.
Pero de Gamboa, who was also a priest, lived at a time when Jesuit missionaries from Portugal were active in the Mughal empire of South Asia. In 1578, Emperor Akbar invited Jesuits to his court to engage in debates with representatives of other religions. Though the emperor was never converted, some of the artwork created during his reign reflects the Mughal interest in Roman Catholic imagery and European styles of representation.
During Gamboa's lifetime, many of his fellow priests traveled to Japan as missionaries. From the mid-sixteenth century until 1639, missionaries from Portugal, Spain, and Italy accompanied Portuguese traders shipping goods from China to Japan. These missionaries were highly educated bearers of broad information about Western learning.
The Gulbenkian Choir's many international tours have taken them to both India and Japan, more than 400 years after the first Portuguese missionaries arrived at those same destinations.
Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Born in Naples, Domenico Scarlatti, sixth child of composer Alessandro Scarlatti, early on demonstrated his gifts as a harpsichordist. At the age of fifteen he was appointed organist and composer of the Naples Chapel Royal. After a few attempts at theater, he left Naples for Venice, where he made acquaintances who would greatly influence his development as a composer—in particular, Georg Friedrich Händel.
During a five-year stay in Rome (1709–14), at the service of Queen Maria Casimira of Poland, Scarlatti composed several operas. When the sovereign left Rome, Scarlatti became chapel master to the Portuguese ambassador, the Marquis of Fontes, and also of the Cappella Giulia in the Vatican. During this period he wrote many sacred works, including the Stabat Mater heard in this podcast. This fascinating composition, full of surprises and contradictions, is the most famous of all of Scarlatti's choral motets. Although it is written for ten parts, Scarlatti avoids a subdivision into two choirs, choosing instead to write real ten-part counterpoint and to use this rich texture to produce a lush harmonic structure.
In 1720 in Lisbon, Scarlatti became royal chapel master for King João V of Portugal and music master for the Infanta Maria Barbara, future queen of Spain. In 1729, he settled permanently in Madrid, where he would remain until his death at age seventy-two. By then he was considered stylistically more Spanish than Italian, based on the Iberian influences he had incorporated during his years in Spain and Portugal. Despite his vast and varied musical output, rich in operas and sacred music, the importance and originality of Scarlatti lie chiefly in his harpsichord works.
Pero de Gamboa (1563?–1638)
Pero de Gamboa was born around 1563. After being ordained subdeacon, deacon, and priest, in 1585 he was appointed chapel master of the cathedral of Braga in northern Portugal, where he was to remain until around 1594. His extant compositions are few in number, all of them church music.
Gamboa's motets O bone Jesu, Illumina oculos meos, Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro, and Miserere nostri, Domine are all for four voices a cappella. There is no indication that there was an instrumental accompaniment, but such a possibility cannot be entirely excluded. They show simple and elegant melodic writing; almost always imitative, highly elaborate rhythm; and harmonic treatment that sometimes reflects expressive suggestions in the text. This latter feature is particularly clear in Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro, in which an energetic ascending motive corresponds to the word "ressurrexit" (he resurrected) and a long descending one is applied to "pependit in ligno" (hang from the Cross).
Francisco António de Almeida (?–ca. 1755)
Italian influence penetrated Portuguese musical life in the early eighteenth century, thanks to reforms King João V of Portugal introduced in his Chapel Royal. Using the unprecedented wealth generated by Brazilian gold mines and maritime trade, João V was able to employ singers and musicians of the highest level—including the famous Domenico Scarlatti as royal chapel master. The king also established the music schools of the Patriarchal Seminary (1713) and the Monastery of St. Catherine of Ribamar (1729), both of which were to serve as the country's mainstays of musical training throughout the century. Using grants from the Royal Purse, he also sent young composers, including Almeida, to Rome for advanced studies.
Almeida, who lived from the final years of the seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century, is undoubtedly one of the greatest Portuguese composers of his time in both theatrical and sacred compositions. In the 1720s, he worked in Rome, where his oratorios Il pentimento di Davidde and La Giuditta were performed. When he returned to Portugal, he became organist of the Patriarchal Church, the cathedral of Lisbon. His opera La pazienza di Socrate, with a libretto by Alexandre de Gusmão, is the earliest-known work in the genre by a Portuguese composer to have been performed in Lisbon, during the Carnival season of 1735.
In vocal music, Almeida shows fluent melodic invention, an elaborate and rich sense of rhythm, and great balance between melody and harmony. His sacred music is full of sophisticated polyphonic textures, dense and colorful harmonies, expressive treatment of texts, and refined use of dissonance.
The Magnificat is written for eight parts, usually divided into two choirs, but sometimes assembled into a single ensemble, as in the monumental fugue on the words "et in saecula saeculorum. Amen." O quam suavis is for a four-part choir, and shows elaborate writing, namely in the brilliant final fugato on the word "Alleluia." The psalm Beatus vir, which dates to 1735, presents virtuoso writing for solo soprano in a fast-moving concertato dialogue with a four-part choir, both accompanied by a basso continuo. Justus ut palma florebit begins with a section for four soloists, sometimes working in pairs, and moves on to a four-part choral section, characterized by animated imitative writing.
Stabat Mater dolorosa
Juxta crucem lacrimosa,
Dum pendebat filius.
Cujus animam gementem,
Contristatam et dolentem,
O quam tristis et afflicta
Fuit illa benedicta
Quae moerebat et dolebat,
Pia Mater, dum videbat
Nati poenas incliti.
Quis est homo, qui non fleret
Matrem Christi si videret
In tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari,
Christi Matrem contemplari
Dolentem cum filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis
Vidit Jesum in tormentis
Et flagelis subditum.
Vidit Jesum dulcem Natum
Dum emisit spiritum.
Eja, Mater, fons amoris,
Me sentire vim doloris
Fac, ut tecum lugeam.
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum
In amando Christum Deum,
Ut sibi complaceam.
Sancta Mater, istud agas,
Crucifixi fige plagas,
Cordi meo valide.
Tui Nati vulnerati,
Tam dignati pro me pati,
Poenas mecum divide.
Fac me vere tecum flere,
Donec ego vixero.
Juxta crucem tecum stare,
Te libenter sociare
In planctu desidero.
Virgo virginum praeclara,
Mihi jam non sis amara,
Fac me tecum plangere.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem,
Passionis fac consortem
Et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagis vulnerari,
Cruce hac inebriari
Ob amorem Filii.
Inflammatus et accensus,
Per te, Virgo, sim defensus
In die judicii.
Fac me cruce custodiri,
Morte Christi praemuniri,
Quando corpus morietur,
Fac, ut animae donetur
The sorrowful Mother stood
weeping beside the cross
on which her Son was hanging.
She whose soul, sighing,
saddened and suffering,
was pierced by a sword.
O how sad and how afflicted
was that blessed Mother
of the Only-begotten.
She who grieved and suffered,
the pious Mother, as she saw
the pains of her glorious Child.
Who is the man who would not weep
seeing the Mother of Christ
in such torment?
Who would not be saddened
beholding Christ's Mother
suffering with her Son?
For the sins of His people,
she saw Jesus in torment
and subjected to the whip.
She saw Jesus, her sweet Son,
as He gave up His spirit.
O Mother, fountain of love,
let me feel the strength of your pains,
that I may mourn with you.
Let my heart burn
in the love of Christ-God,
that I may please Him.
Holy Mother, let this happen,
drive the wounds of the Crucified
firmly into my heart.
Let me share the pains
of your wounded Child,
who deigned to suffer for me.
Let me truly weep with you,
and share the pain of the Crucified
for as long as I live.
To stand beside the Cross with you,
and to freely join you in your weeping
is my desire.
O Virgin exalted among the virgins,
be not bitter towards me,
let me weep with you.
Let me bear the death of Christ,
let me share His Passion,
meditate upon His wounds.
Let me be wounded with His wounds,
be inebriated by this Cross,
for the love of your Son.
Lest I be set on fire and burn,
let me be defended by you, Virgin,
on the day of judgment.
Let me be shielded by the Cross,
armed by the death of Christ,
cherished by grace.
When my body dies
let my soul be granted
the glory of Paradise.
O bone Jesu
O bone Jesu, illumina oculos meos,
Ne unquam obdormiam in morte,
Inimicus meos: prevalui adversus eum.
O bone Jesu
O good Jesus, give light to my eyes,
lest I sleep in death,
and lest my enemy say: "I have prevailed against him."
Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro
Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro,
Qui pro nobis pependit in ligno,
Surrexit Dominus de sepulcro
The Lord is risen from the tomb,
He who for our sake hung on the Cross,
Miserere nostri, Domine
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua, Domine, super nos,
Quemadmodum speravimus in te.
Miserere nostri, Domine
Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Let thy mercy, O Lord, fall upon us,
As we have hoped in thee.
O quam suavis
O quam suavis est Domine spiritus tuus,
Qui est dulcedinem tuam in filios demonstrares,
Pane suavíssimo de coelo praestito esurientes reples bonis,
Fastidiosos divites dimitens innanes.
O quam suavis
O how soft, o Lord, is thy spirit,
who, to show thy sweetness towards thy children,
feedest the hungry with the softest bread from heaven
and sendest away the haughty rich, empty-handed.
Justus ut palma
Justus ut palma florebit: Sicut cedrus, quae in Lisbano est, multiplicabitur
Justus ut palma
The just shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall multiply like the cedar of Lebanon.
Magnificat anima mea Dominum.
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae:
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est:
et sanctum nomen ejus.
Et misericordia ejus a progenie
in progenies timentibus eum.
Fecit potentiam in brachio suo:
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles.
Esurientes implevit bonis:
et divites dimisit inanes.
Suscepit Israel puerum suum,
recordatus misericordiae suae.
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham et semini ejus in saecula.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spitritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio et nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord.
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.
Because he has looked with favor upon his humble servant:
thus from this day all generations shall call me blessed.
Because He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name.
And His mercy shall fall upon those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.
He has shown the strength of His arm
and has scattered the proud in their conceited hearts,
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty-handed.
He has come to the aid of his servant Israel,
remembering His promise of mercy.
As He had promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his seed, forever.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and always, and to the ages of ages. Amen
Beatus vir, qui timet Dominum
In mandatis ejus volet minis
Potens in terra erit sêmen ejus
Gerenatio rectorum benedicetur
Gloria et divitie in domo ejus
Et justitia ejus
Manet in saeculum saeculi
Exortum est in tenebris
Misericors et miserator et justus
Qui miseretur et comodat
Disponet semones suos in judicio
Quia in aeternum non commovebitur
In memoria aeterna erit justus
Ab auditione mala non timebit
Paratum cor ejus
Sperare in Domino
Confirmatus est cor ejus
Non comovebitur donec
Dispiciat inimicos suos
Dispersit dedit pauperibus
Justitia ejus in Manet
Cornu ejus exaltabitur in gloria
Pecator videbit er erascetur
Dentibus sui fremit et tabescet
Desiderium peccatorum peribit.
Gloria Patri et Filio
Et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erta in principio
Et nunc et sempre
Et in saecula saeculorum
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who delights greatly in His commandments.
His seed shall be mighty upon the earth,
the generation of the upright shall be blessed.
Glory and wealth shall be in his house;
and his righteousness shall endure forever.
Unto the upright arises
a light in the darkness.
He is merciful, compassionate, and just.
Happy is the man who is generous and lends to others,
who conducts his affairs with wisdom,
for the righteous will never be moved.
The righteous shall be remembered for ever.
he shall never be afraid of evil tidings.
His heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady, he shall not be afraid,
until he sees his desire upon his enemies.
He has distributed, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness shall endure forever and ever,
his horn shall be exalted in glory.
The sinner shall see it and be angry
he shall gnash his teeth and melt away;
the desire of the sinner shall perish.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning is now and always, and to the ages of ages.
(Latin translations by Rui Vieira Nery, University of évora)
Michel Corboz, conductor, first trained at the Conservatoire in Fribourg, Switzerland, where he studied solo singing and composition. In 1961, he founded the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne. His award-winning recordings of Monteverdi's Vespro della Beata Vergine and L'Orfeo in 1965 and 1966 marked the beginning of his international career. From 1976 to 2004, he taught choral conducting at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Musique in Geneva. Since 1969, he has been principal conductor of the Gulbenkian Choir.
While he also conducts pre-classical opera (Cavalli, Monteverdi, Charpentier), Corboz above all performs and records the concert repertoire for chorus, soloists, and orchestra. Among his most important recordings are Bach's Passions and B-minor Mass, Mozart's C-minor Mass and Requiem, Mendelssohn's Elias and Paulus, Puccini's Messa di Gloria, and the Requiem of Brahms, Verdi, Fauré, and Duruflé. His discography also includes works by the Swiss composers Frank Martin and Arthur Honegger.
Corboz received the Critics' Prize on the occasion of his two most recent tours of Argentina, in 1995 and 1996. France has honored him with the title of Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He also was decorated with the Order of the Infante Don Henrique by the Portuguese president in 1999, and was awarded the Grand Prix de la Ville de Lausanne in 1990 and the Prix de la Ville de Lausanne in 2003.
Ana Quintans, soprano, concluded her university studies in sculpture in 1998 and then began studying music at the National Conservatory in Lisbon, under the tenor José Manuel Araújo. She later ran the workshop La Musique des Mémoires with the French composer Claire Renard at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. For three years, she studied at the Summer School for Young Singers OPERAPLUS in Belgium, winning the Vera Rozna Scholarship Award in 2003 and the Temple Square Concert Award in 2004. In 2005 and 2006, she studied in the Flanders Operastudio, Gent, thanks to a scholarship awarded by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.
She has sung Amore in L'incoronazione di Poppea by Monteverdi; Argie in Les paladins (Rameau); Belinda and Second Witch in Dido and Aeneas (Purcell); Peaseblosson in The Fairy Queen (Purcell); Atalanta from Serse (Händel), Pamina, First Lady, and First Boy in Die Zauberflöte (Mozart); Lisetta in Il Mondo della Luna (Avondano); Scoiattolo in Il scoiattolo in gamba (Nino Rota); and Lion and Bird in Fables (Ned Rorem). She has performed at the Opera de Lyon, the Festival Musicatlântico, the Festival Culturel Européen at Rouen, the Wiener Festwochen, the Teatro São Luiz, the Festival Ambronay, the Teatro Lethes, the Centro Cultural de Belém, the Vlaamse Opera, the Festival de Musique Ancienne de Lyon, the Leighton House Museum, the Vorarlberger Landestheater at Bregenz, the Auditorium Stravinsky, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, and the Cité de la Musique.
She has recorded Judicium Salomonis (Vera Mater), Motet pour une longue offrande by Marc Antoine Charpentier, with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants for Emi-Virgin Classics; the Requiem by Fauré with Michel Corboz; and the Sinfonia Varsovia and the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne for Mirare.
Jonathan Rubin, theorbo, specializes in basso continuo on lute, theorbo, and baroque guitar. From 1976 until 1982, he took part in more than 500 performances of the Monteverdi Cycle with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. Since 1980, he has taught at the Geneva Conservatorium, and more recently at the Centre de Musique Ancienne (CMA) in Geneva.
Rubin has taught classes in Israel, Germany, Hong Kong, and Australia. In addition, he has edited lute publications on the music of Purcell, Weiss, Satie, Debussy, and A. M. Bach, and written on technique for the English Lute Society Newsletter. He has also performed or recorded with the Ensemble Vocal et Instrumental de Lausanne, La Grande Ecurie, the Freitagsakademie, Les Talens Lyriques (Christoph Rousset), Ensemble 415, Les Musiciens du Louvrel/Minkowski, Heinz Holliger, and Jill Feldman, among others.
In 1986, Rubin began performing and recording regularly with the Paris-based ensemble Les Arts Florissants under William Christie. Along with more than forty continuo recordings for Teldec, Philips, Harmonia Mundi, Erato, and others, he has recorded a solo CD of music for lute and bass viol for Gallo Records.
Thilo Hirsch, violone, studied at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with Christoph Coin and singing with Richard Levitt and Kurt Widmer. In 1991, he founded the ensemble Arcimboldo and, in 1996, the baroque theater ensemble Teatro Arcimboldo. He was invited to perform at the 2006 Festival Atlântico in Madeira, the Festival Fränkischer Sommer, the Barockfest Münster, the Mozartfest/Schlosstheater Schwetzingen, the Telemann Festival in Magdeburg, and the Ekhof Festival in Gotha.
Hirsch has a special interest in research on rarely played historical instruments. He plays the baryton and trumpet marine and has edited music for these instruments. Since 1992, he has performed and recorded with Michel Corboz (and Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne), Ensemble Turicum, Parthenia Vocal, Basler Madrigalisten, Tölzer Boys' Choir, Solothurner Singknaben, and the Gulbenkian Choir, among others.
Marcelo Giannini, organ, graduated from the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Geneva Conservatoire Supérieur. He has since appeared as organist and harpsichordist in festivals at Madrid, Madeira, Weimar, Munich, Rouen, Lausanne, Morelia, and São Paulo. He is a frequent collaborator with the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne and the Gulbenkian Choir—and has appeared with these ensembles in Europe, Japan, Tunisia, the United States, and Argentina. He has also collaborated with the Lyon National Orchestra, the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra, the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, under Armin Jordan, Fabio Luisi, and Nicholas McGegan.
He has recorded frequently as a soloist, as well as with the Ensemble Vocal de Lausanne and the Orchestra de la Suisse Romande. Giannini is the official organist of the Temple de Carouge (Geneva) and a professor of improvisation and thorough bass at the Geneva Conservatoire Supérieur.
The Gulbenkian Choir was founded in 1964 by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. With more than 100 members, the choir has a repertoire ranging from a cappella chamber music to large-scale symphonic works. It has collaborated with major international orchestras, including the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, the Baden-Baden Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic, the Vienna Symphony, the Budapest Festival Orchestra, the Czech Philharmonic, the Strasbourg Philharmonic, and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, among others. The choir also has worked with conductors such as Colin Davis, Frans Brüggen, Claudio Abbado, Istvan Fischer, Gerd Albrecht, Emmanuel Krivine, Theodor Guschlbauer, Michael Gielen, Rafael Frübeck de Burgos, and Franz Welser-Möst.
Along with its regular concert season in Lisbon and national tours, the Gulbenkian Choir has repeatedly toured Latin America, Europe, Canada, West Asia, India, and Japan. In 1992, a tour of Holland and Germany with the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century led to the live recording of Beethoven's Ninth for Philips, within Frans Brüggen's complete Beethoven cycle.
The Gulbenkian Choir has recorded extensively for Philips, Archiv-Deutsche Grammophon, Erato, Cascavelle, Musifrance, and FNAC. These albums have received the Berlioz Prize of the French Académie Nationale du Disque Lyrique, the Grand Prix International du Disque of the Charles Cross Academy, and the Orphee d'Or, among other awards.
In 2006, the Gulbenkian Choir made the first complete recording of the Portuguese composer's Madrigais Camoneanos (Camões Madrigals). Also in 2006, the choir recorded for the Portugaler label a CD with unaccompanied polyphonic works by Pedro de Gamboa and Lourenço Ribeiro and an album of seventeenth-century "Negro" Villancicos of the monastery of Santa Cruz, in Coimbra. For the Portugalsomlabel, it recorded a CD of choral songs by Fernando Lopes-Graça,Michel Corboz has been chief conductor of the Gulbenkian Choir since 1969, with Fernando Eldoro and Jorge Matta as associate and assistant conductors, respectively.
Podcast, notes, and slideshow coordinated by Michael Wilpers, performing arts programmer. Web design by Liz Cheng, audio engineering by Andy Finch, photography by Neil Greentree, and editing by Joelle Seligson.
This performance was recorded in concert at the Freer Gallery on June 23, 2007, in conjunction with the exhibition Encompassing the Globe: Portugal and the World in the 16th and 17th Centuries. It was made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian.
Explore this podcastView related images
Explore related exhibition
More concert series podcasts
Subscribe to this SeriesRSS
Most Recent PodcastsSounds from Arabia
Tarek Yamani Trio
Javanese Gamelan from Yogyakarta
Masters of the Persian Santur
Renaissance Songs of Travel
Shimmering Sounds from Bali
Master of the Chinese Pipa
Sound: The Encounter
Yogic Sounds of India
Ancient Music for the Chinese Zither
The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC.