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Title page of Gesualdo's Tenebrae Responsoria

Responsoria et alia ad Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae spectantia is a collection of music for Holy Week by Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo, published in 1611. It consists of three sets of nine short pieces, one set for each of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and a psalm and a hymn. The work was written for unaccompanied voices: two soprano parts, alto, two tenor parts, and bass.

The texts of the Responsories for Holy Week are related to Jesus's Passion and are sung in between the lessons at Tenebrae. Gesualdo's settings are stylistically madrigali spirituali - madrigals on sacred texts.[not verified in body] As in Gesualdo's later books of madrigals, he uses particularly sharp dissonance and shocking chromatic juxtapositions, especially in the parts highlighting text passages having to do with Christ's suffering, or the guilt of St. Peter in having betrayed Jesus.



"Vos fugam..." part from I,2 Tristis est anima mea
"et ego vadam..." part from I,2 Tristis est anima mea
"Quia in te occisus est Salvator..." part from III, 2 Jerusalem surge
Mode shifts in "Quia in te occisus est Salvator..." (see previous example)
Beginning of III, 3 Plange quasi virgo
End of III, 3 Plange quasi virgo
"Attendite..." part of III, 5 O vos omnes
  1. Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday
    1. In monte Oliveti
    2. Tristis est anima mea
      Alex Ross writes about Gesualdo's setting of this responsory: "... begins with desolate, drooping figures that conjure Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death”). It then accelerates into frenzied motion, suggesting the fury of the mob and the flight of Jesus’ disciples. There follows music of profound loneliness, radiant chords punctured by aching dissonances, as Jesus says, “I will go to be sacrificed for you.” The movement from inner to outer landscape, from chromatic counterpoint to block harmonies, humanizes Jesus in a way that calls to mind Caravaggio’s New Testament paintings of the same period, with their collisions of dark and light."[1]
    3. Ecce vidimus eum
    4. Amicus meus osculi
    5. Judas mercator pessimus
    6. Unus ex discipulis meis
    7. Eram quasi agnus innocens
    8. Una hora non potuistis
    9. Seniores populi consilium
  2. Tenebrae Responsories for Good Friday
    1. Omnes amici mei dereliquerunt me et praevaluerunt insidiantes mihi
    2. Velum templi scissum est
    3. Vinea mea electa, ego te plantavi
    4. Tamquam ad latronem existis cum gladiis et fustibus cemprehendere me
    5. Tenebrae factae sunt, dum crucifixissent Jesum Judaei
    6. Animam meam dilectam tradidi in manus iniquorum
    7. Tradiderunt me in manus impiorum
    8. Jesum tradidit impius summis principibus sacerdotum, et senioribus populi
    9. Caligaverunt oculi mei fletu meo
  3. Tenebrae Responsories for Holy Saturday
    1. Sicut ovis ad occisionem
    2. Jerusalem, surge
    3. Plange quasi virgo
    4. Recessit pastor noster
    5. O vos omnes
    6. Ecce quomodo moritur justus
    7. Astiterunt reges terrae
    8. Aestimatus sum
    9. Sepulto Domino
  4. "et alia" – settings of:
    1. Miserere mei, Deus (Psalm 51)
    2. Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79)
For the Lauds of Holy Week

Publication of the scoreEdit

  • Carlo Gesualdo, Responsoria et alia ad Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae spectantia, Giovanni Giacomo Carlino (Ioannes Iacobus Carlinus), 1611.
  • Wilhelm Weismann and Glenn Watkins (editors). Tenebrae Responsoria in Carlo Gesualdo: Sämtliche Werke. Hamburg, Deutscher Verlag für Musik, 1957-1967.




External linksEdit