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Prelude & Postlude on 'Jesu Redemptor omnium'

By Jonathan Hellerman

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Composed by Jonathan Hellerman. Text: Jesu Redemptor omnium. Two pieces on a chant hymn. Christmas. Published by CanticaNOVA Publications (C5.6130).

Item Number: C5.6130

Jesu Redemptor omnium, sometimes known as "Christe Redemptor omnium," is a traditional office hymn for Christmas Day, sung at First Vespers, Matins and Second Vespers. The 6th century text was written in the style of Saint Ambrose (340-397), who wrote many hymns to encourage orthodox Christian theology, particularly against the threats of Arianism. The dorian mode melody is brief in its four phrases, the first and last being musically identical. It can be found on page 365 of the Liber usualis. Maryland organist and composer Jonathan Hellerman has used this chant for a pair of Christmas pieces, labeled "Prelude" and "Postlude," although the former could easily be played during the Mass at Offertory or Communion. The Prelude movement is an exquisite Baroque "chorale prelude" with the cantus firmus chant melody in the alto, played on a light reed stop (like a Cromorne). Two contrapuntal voices are played in the right hand, and the pedal grounds the movement, mainly in quarter notes. Four pages in length, the chant melody appears once, in augmented whole notes. If J.S. Bach were Catholic he might well have written this. The Postlude movement is a toccata-fantasia in French style, using Full Organ through reeds on three manuals and pedal. Snatches of the opening chant phrase are heard in various keys throughout, as the movement vigorously races through seven pages to a chordal climax using double pedal - in fact, the last chant fragment is heard at the very end in the right foot (over a pedal point C and under large manual chords). This is wonderful Catholic Christmas music for organ, and deserves a place at Midnight Mass, or at Solemn Christmas Vespers (at those places lucky enough to celebrate this Hour).

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