Tristis est anima mea is the second responsory of the Tenebrae for Maundy Thursday. The theme of the text of the second responsory for Maundy Thursday is Jesus in the garden Gethsemane , addressing his disciples. The first two lines of the responsory are Matthew While the first two lines are quoted from the bible, the last two lines of are free anonymous poetry, predicting they will see a crowd, they will flee, and Jesus will go to be sacrificed for them.
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All these definitions helped to create the sound-world of this piece, which often uses the darkest colours of the orchestra. Tenebrae is also an office of the Christian church associated with Holy Week. Taking place at night, the liturgy is characterised by the gradual extinguishing of candles, until the service ends in complete darkness.
The passage forms the basis of almost all the musical material and undergoes many transformations as the work proceeds. Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa , is one of the most extraordinary figures of the late Renaissance. The crimes are well-documented in contemporary court records, which detail the shocking events of the night of 16 October Returning unexpectedly from a deliberately fabricated hunting expedition, the Prince discovered the lovers in flagrante and, with the assistance of his servants, killed them in a frenzied attack.
Legend has it that Gesualdo subsequently ordered the murder of his infant child, who he believed bore a strong resemblance to the Duke, by having the cradle violently swung until the child expired. Whether or not this is true, it is known that his final years were spent in isolation and increasing despair and that his most significant compositions, with their overwhelming emphasis on remorse and suffering, date from this period.
It is possible to imagine Gesualdo using his art as a form of expiation for his crimes. The sound-world of this piece draws an analogy with the psychological and spiritual darkness that ultimately overwhelmed the tragic Prince. Structurally, the work divides into two roughly equal halves, each rising to a violent climax before subsiding. The second part has the character of a free passacaglia, based on a combination of the Tristis est anima mea fragment and a lullaby-like melody first heard in the violas.
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Tristis est anima mea (Carlo Gesualdo)
Tristis est anima mea (responsory)
Tristis est anima mea (Gesualdo, Carlo)