O magnum mysterium

Composer
Giovanni Gabrieli
Arranger
Lyricist
Liturgical
Difficulty
Moderate (Grades 4-6)
Duration
3 minutes
Genre
Other
Instrumentation
Choir
Instrumental parts
Not available

O magnum mysterium was one of the first pieces of church music published by Giovanni Gabrieli, and has become one of his most famous and popular. It appeared as one of 11 pieces in the Concerti di Andrea e di Gio. Gabrieli 1587, edited by Giovanni after his uncle's death.

The work is in a scoring which is now recognised as standard for Venetian repertoire of this type: a high choir and a low choir, the high choir with SMABa clefs, the low one with ATTB. It is likely that the lower choir was performed by a solo falsettist and three sackbuts, possibly with a dulcian doubling the bass part; the higher choir may well have been sung chorally, or have consisted also of mixed voices and instruments.

The text is a Christmas Responsory, sung both on Christmas Day and on the Octave.

Translation: O great mystery and wonderful sacrament, that the animals should see the newborn Lord lying in a manger. O blessed Virgin, whose womb was worthy to bear the Lord Christ.

Note values have been halved in duple sections, quartered in triple time.

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