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CD102   Frank Ferko: Motets



Frank Ferko: Motets

American Repertory Singers
Leo Nestor, director
  • 12-page insert with notes by the composer
  • 56'30" total playing time

CD102      $15.95

Purchase from Canticle Distributing

Frank Ferko inhabits a unique and unusual musical world. In the background is his love of the music of Olivier Messiaen. In the foreground appears mystery, and thus his intense interest and love of the visions of Hildegard as expressed in her poetry and music, and world of medieval chant.

The Hildegard Motets - nine motets for a capella chorus based on poetry by Hildegard of Bingen

Six Marian Motets - six motets celebrating the Blessed Virgin Mary

The Hildegard Motets
1. O Verbum Patris
2. O splendidissima gemma
3. Hodie aperuit
4. O factura Dei
5. O ignis Spiritus Paracliti
6. Laus Trinitati
7. O vos angeli
8. O speculum columbe
9. Nunc gaudeant

Six Marian Motets
10. Motet for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
11. Motet for the Nativity of the Mother of God
12. Motet for the Annunciation
13. Motet for Mary, Mother of God
14. Motet for the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God
15. O frondens virga

Listen Listen:

“Hodie aperuit” from The Hildegard Motets

Some very classy writing from Chicago-based Frank Ferko... ...Ferko can kick up quite a ruckus when he wants to, as in the joyful 'Nunc gaudeant' or the syncopated underpinnings of the 'Hodie aperuit.' There's a gorgeous flowering of tonal warmth at "flos de virnine Maria" in that same 'Hodie,' by the way, that is the stuff serious goosebumps are made of.
  --Greenfield, American Record Guide, Nov/Dec 1996

The Hildegard Motets

The Hildegard Motets comprise a cycle of nine unaccompanied choral motets using texts by the 12th century abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). The texts were extracted from Hildegard's opus of more than seventy sacred poems titled Symphinia armonie celestium revelationum. Although these poems have been translated into English (more than once) and some of the translations are quite brilliant, I chose to set the original Latin texts as I felt they remained closer to Hildegard's own thoughts. The nine poems used in this cycle were selected according to their appropriateness to seasons in the Christian liturgical caldendar (thus, most of them can be sung in specific liturgical settings) and to their appropriateness to the structured plan of this cycle as well as for their sheer poetic beauty. Hildegard's poetic vocabulary was unusual and unique; she frequently used language that is not found in standard Latin liturgical texts. As with the music she composed, her poetry is highly ecstatic, vivid and rich in imagery.

The associations between the nine poems in this cycle and specfic liturgical observances are my own and not necessarily Hildegard's, but the associations are fairly obvious ones. These are indicated in the printed score of each motet and are also shown below. The structure of the cycle is based more or less on the celestial hierarchy: God: Persons of the Trinity: the Trinity itself --> Angels --> Saints -->The Church. Thus the order of the motets is as follows:

I.     O Verbum Patris
II.    O splendidissima gamma
III.   Hodie aperuit
IV.   O factura Dei
V.     O ignis Spiritus Paracliti
VI .   Laus Trinitati
VII.   O vos angeli

VIII.  O speculum columbe

IX.    Nunc gaudeant

God the Father
God the Son with his Mother
God the Son with his Mother
God the Son
God the Holy Spirit
The Trinity (a summation)
Angels and Archangels

Saint John the Evangelist


Liturgical Association

Holy Trinity
St. Michael & All Angels,
various other observances
Day of St. John, Evangelist
& other related observances
Easter; Dedication of a Church

The form of each motet was dictated by the text, so that each is different from the others. Text painting and numerology also played major roles, along with vocal color, in defining the structure of each motet. (For example, Laus Trinitati is a glorification of the number 3 used on several different levels.)

The Hildegard Motets were composed in 1991-1993 as the result of a commission from the Chicago choral orgainzation His Majestie's Clerkes. The work was premiered (to a sold-out audience) at the Three Arts Club of Chicago on June 13, 1993 by His Majestie's Clerkes under the artistic direction of Anne Heider in celebration of the group's tenth anniversary. One week later His Majestie's Clerkes performed the work again, this time at the Church of St. Paul and the Redeemer in Chicago.

This motet cycle is the second part of the Hildegard Trilogy, which is currently in progress. The first part of the trilogy is The Hildegard Organ Cycle composed in 1990-91 [and was recorded by the composer on ARSIS Audio CD101].

Six Marian Motets

Composed in 1994, the Six Marian Motets were commissioned by J. Michael Thompson, director of music and conductor of the Schola Cantorum at St. Peter's Church in the Loop, Chicago. The texts were selected according to specific associations with Marian festival days and consist of five English texts which are translations of Eastern Orthodox liturgical texts, as prepared by the Sisters of St. Basil the Great, and one Latin text by Hildegard von Bingen. In praise of the Virgin Mary, but without a specific festival association, the sixth motet could be sung appropriately at any Marian festival.

The general concept behind these motets was that they could be performable by a small choir (as few as eight singers) and appropriate for liturgical use but also adaptable to concert performance. Therefore, each motet is relatively brief and is divided into no more than four parts. The organization of the Six Marian Motets is as follows:

I.     Motet for the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
II.    Motet for the Nativity of the Mother of God
III.  Motet for the Annunciation
IV.  Motet for Mary, Mother of God
V.    Motet for the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God
VI.  O frondens virga
Liturgical Association
Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8)
Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (September 8)
Annunciation (March 25)
Mary, Mother of God (January 1)
Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary (August 15)
Any Marian festival

The first performance of the entire set of these motets took place on August 7, 1994 at the Ukranian Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Chicago with J. Michael Thompson conducting the Schola Cantorum of St. Peter's Church.

Frank Ferko