Monday, October 20, 2014

O quam preciosa

Responsory for the Virgin (R 468rb) by Hildegard of Bingen Back to Table of Contents
R. O quam preciosa est
virginitas virginis huius
que clausam
portam habet,
et cuius viscera
sancta divinitas
calore suo infudit, ita
quod flos in ea crevit.

R. Et Filius Dei per secreta ipsius
quasi aurora exivit.

V. Unde dulce germen,
quod Filius ipsius est,
per clausuram ventris eius
paradisum aperuit.

R. Et Filius Dei per secreta ipsius
quasi aurora exivit.
R. How precious is
this Virgin’s sweet virginity,
a clos├ęd
whose womb
divinity most holy with
its warmth has flooded so
a flower sprung within it.

R. The Son of God has come forth from
her hidden chamber like the dawn.

V. And so the sweet and tender shoot—
her Son—
has through her womb’s enclosure
opened Paradise.

R. The Son of God has come forth from
her hidden chamber like the dawn.
Latin collated from the transcription of Beverly Lomer and the edition of Barbara Newman; translation by Nathaniel M. Campbell.

Commentary: Themes and Theology
by Nathaniel M. Campbell

This responsory is an expanded meditation on the themes of the antiphon, Hodie aperuit nobis: the gate, the flower, and the dawn light. It again draws on the imagery of Ezekiel 44:1-3 to envision the Virgin’s chaste womb as the “closed gate” of the Temple whose threshold only the Lord’s Prince could cross. The connection between the Temple gate and the gate behind which Hildegard and her cloistered nuns lived is made here more explicit, as is the symbolic conflation of temple, cloister, garden, and womb. The repetendum and verse in particular elegantly express the happy paradox of Mary’s hidden enclosure as a Virgin—an enclosure physically enacted by Hildegard and her nuns—from which the light of a reopened paradise burst forth.

There is a serene tenderness about this responsory that easily conjures the image of Hildegard herself sitting quietly in her garden, contentedly composing in her heart as her hands tended to the flowers and herbs. The Virgin’s secreta—an elegant expression for her private parts, as it were—are symbolically aligned with the privateness of the garden, a place where Hildegard could go to be alone with God in the viridity of creation. At the same time, there is an undercurrent of chaste eroticism in the tender warmth of God flooding into the Virgin’s womb as the warm sunlight floods into Hildegard’s private garden. The tenderness is reflected in the music’s effortless lightness of touch, which appears even in the octave-and-half run of notes up the scale on sancta divinitatis in the respond, as Hildegard circles round three more times to the A-C-D opening of sancta on infudit, ita, and crevit, a motif that reappears twice in the repetendum.

Transcription and Music Notes
by Beverly Lomer

D mode
Range: A below the final to D an octave above the final
Setting: neumatic and melismatic

D is the primary grammatical marker in O quam preciosa. A is also used. On page 2 of the transcription, the phrase, quod Filius ipsius est, is outlined by G. It can be grouped with the phrase before and the phrase after to make one long statement, or broken up as indicated in the transcription.

The repetendum begins with a single neume D on Et and is followed by a compound one that includes the leap from D to A. The upward leap of a fifth is usually used to indicate the start of a phrase, but in this case, the repetendum must begin with Et. It is likely that the single neume D on Et should be slurred into the leap on Filius. The same doubled initial note before the leap is found in page 1, line 8, on the phrase, quod flos in ea crevit; one could alternatively group quod with the previous phrase and thus begin with flos on the leap.

There is also an alternative way to think about the phrasing of the opening respond: O quam preciosa est virginitas virginis could be sung as one phrase. Huius could then begin the next phrase: huius que clausam. This phrasing would outline the first statement with the modal final, and if one sings it that way, line 8 should probably be adjusted also to begin with flos on the D to A leap. The Latin sense is better served by the phrasing we have used in the transcription, but the freedoms of chanted verse allow interpretive latitude.

Further Resources for O quam preciosa

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