Te Deum in Dmajor ‘Dettingen’ HWV283
A Te Deum is an early Christian hymn of praise from the 4th century, A.D. The title is taken from its opening Latin words, Te Deum laudamus, “Thee, O God, we praise”. It is regularly sung today in the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches in thanksgiving for special blessings, such as a treaty of peace or a royal coronation, among others. The the text of the hymn follows the outline of the Apostles’ Creed, mixing a poetic vision of the heaven with its declaration of faith. The hymn has been set to music by many composers, with Handel, himself writing three settings.
The “Dettingen Te Deum”, Handel’s last and most successful setting of the “Te Deum”, was written to celebrate the victory of England, led by King George II, over the French at the Battle of Dettingen, Germany in the War of the Austrian Succession. It is a brilliant example of how Handel could capture the tone for festive occasions as had never been done before, particularly through his use of timpani and trumpets. It contains eighteen short solos and choruses, mostly of a celebratory character. Composed in July 1743, it was first performed in November of the same year, with a full rehearsal taking place on November 18.
Handel, ever the composer for the theatre, set various parts of the text programmatically. Note these descriptive settings: #2: many notes (long melisma) for “all”, #3: sopranos (high voices) sing the line “to thee all angels cry aloud”, #4: “continually”, #10: scattered “to all”, #13: cry of “help” (tenors and sopranos), #14: rising “and lift them up”, #16: to express “world without end”, Handel evokes eternity by setting the text in an old-fashioned metre (3/2) and in an old polyphonic style. As well, you may notice a few borrowings from “Messiah”, which Handel had just completed.
The heart of the work is the tender ‘Thou sittest at the right hand of God’, a sensuous Andante in B flat in which a mellifluous vocal theme is shared in turns between the alto, tenor and bass soloists, and then all three combine in rapturous expanding harmonies.
Most surprising of all is the final movement. Instead of finishing with military drama, ‘O Lord, in thee have I trusted’ is a triple-time Andante with a graceful melody expressing warm gratitude for God’s grace, never to be “confounded” (or, “brought to ruin”). It begins with a lyrical alto solo and is very impressive when voices and instruments take up the phrase in a magnificent outburst of power and rich harmony, and carry it to the close.
— compiled from online sources
The music of the Sunrise Mass is intended to take us on a journey. The text comes from the Ordinary of the Mass, but Gjeilo gives it English titles, seemingly unrelated to the Latin texts. He wants the musical development of the work to evolve from nebulous and pristine to more emotional and dramatic, and eventually warm and solid – as a metaphor for human development from child to adult, or as a spiritual journey from the heavens to earth.
Kyrie – The Spheres
For the opening Kyrie, Gjeilo evokes an atmosphere of The Spheres that sounds like ‘floating in space, in deep silence, between stars and planets.’ (Gjeilo) This movement begins the Mass as a beautiful and sacred meditation, spiritual and contemplative. The melodic theme of descending thirds on the word “Kyrie”, appears at several points in the Mass and becomes a unifying element.
Gloria – Sunrise
This music is a symphonic, metaphorical sunrise. It begins quietly, slowly growing into a spectacular and joyful section. Gjeilo imagines the opening descending line “Gloria”, sung by the sopranos, as angels singing a subtle, dream‐like incantation. With the “Laudamus te”, the tone changes to a sprightly and joyous one. The strings have quick patterns, in contrast to the choir’s slower, richer ascending melody line. Gjeilo found Britten’s War Requiem influential to his work and closes this movement with a slow and evocative ‘amen’ section, as did Britten.
Credo – The City
Gjeilo calls this text “the most powerful and assured text in the mass. ‘I believe’ is a strong statement.” The movement The City begins with staccati sixteenth notes in a driven line, akin to the bustle and activity of a large city. The opening choral line begins with the men, a lower register in austere contrast to the beginning of the previous movement. The music, now in the key of D‐minor, is no longer angelic and floating, but rather heavy, dark and relentless. Toward the end there is a giant pause written into the music, which is followed by a spectacular climax of not only this movement, but of the entire work.
Sanctus & Agnus Dei – Identity & The Ground
The Sanctus is set with the same music as the opening Kyrie. The only difference is the use of a delicate violin solo above the choral line. For Gjeilo, the solo violin symbolizes the individual and the emergence of a conscious ‘self’; thus this movement is called Identity. The pathos that Identity creates is yearning, searching, and acutely pensive. The Mass begins in the stars during the Kyrie, and then in the Sanctus, it circles back to the same material to symbolize the individual. It is as if it looks towards the stars, then mirrors what it sees, only now it is self‐aware.
The Ground is different from any other part of the Sunrise Mass. Gjeilo defines it with the terms “resolution,” “release” and “relief.” After the tension and dark crevices that the music has visited, The Ground is the place of absolute peace, tranquility and relief. One feels that one has arrived and is finally “grounded.” No longer is the music floating in the spheres, rising with the sun, bustling in the city, or discovering the self. The music now depicts being one with humanity and the Earth, completing the journey at a deeper plane. The work comes gently to a close with the Dona Nobis Pacem in a similar slow ‘amen‐like’ section as before, but ending with the solo violin in an ascending cadence, hopeful and expansive.
One experiences in Gjeilo’s Sunrise Mass the full metaphorical journey from the starry Heaven to Earth, from undifferentiated darkness to solid, warm life, evolving spiritually as a human. “The self, having experienced each movement in the work, now has the perspective and understanding to peacefully contain everything it has gone through.”
— abridged from an online paper by Kira Zeeman Rugen
ABOUT OLA GJEILO
Composer and pianist Ola Gjeilo was born in Oslo, Norway, in 1978. His schooling includes the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, the Royal College of Music in London, and the Juilliard School of Music in New York, winning the 2005 Juilliard Composers’ Orchestral Work Competition. He then moved to Los Angeles to study film composition. At present, he is a full-time composer, based in Santa Monica, California.
Ola Gjeilo has composed over 30 published choral works, both a cappella and accompanied, that have been performed world-wide. He also has composed music for solo piano, instrumental ensembles, and orchestras. He composes jazz, as well as classical music. Gjeilo’s music has been performed in over 30 countries.
Ola Gjeilo has his own voice and musical language, influenced by classical, jazz, and folk music. He is especially interested in composing vocal, orchestral, and piano music. an equal partner in his compositions. He also enjoys doubling voices with a string quartet. As he comments, “I just love the sound of voices singing chords on ‘Ooh’ or ‘Mmm’. It creates a sound that can be so amazingly evocative and warm, especially when doubled by a string quartet.”