Eric Whitacre

Lux aurumque, for chorus (also for wind ensemble)

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    "Yes, I'm in love with Latin, the sounds of the vowels, the consonants, the logic of it all, the ancient quality it has. It just felt right to translate the text." Thus wrote Eric Whitacre about the seemingly odd decision to translate a text from a "living" language (English) into a "dead" one (Latin) before composing his setting. Whitacre had been struck by the simple power in a few lines of Christmas poetry by reclusive poet Edward Esch: "Light/warm and heavy as pure gold/and angels sing softly/to the new-born babe." But before writing his musical setting, Whitacre asked his friend and frequent collaborator, poet Charles Anthony Silvestri, to translate that evocative bit of English verse into the purer vowels, the "ancient quality," and perhaps the more ritually evocative language of Latin. The result is his shimmering choral anthem Lux aurumque, a perennial favorite among his compositions despite its seasonal specificity. It was commissioned by the Tampa Bay Master Chorale and dedicated to Jo-Michael Scheibe.

    The musical essence of Lux aurumque for Whitacre is a "blossoming" of the textures of light, and a "surrender that we must experience in reaction to the purity of this light." The music thus gradually unfolds, with radiant pairs of chords on the first word: the "Lux" (light). The pairs of chords establish a rocking expectancy for the entire piece, in which pairs of chords lean into each successive part of the pair; it is not traditional Western cadences, but rather a musical action of adding shining dissonances, especially major seconds or tones in different musical registers (such as the brilliant soprano pitched far above the third opening set of chords). Subtle shifts in text call forth subtle shifts in texture, including a gentle reach into the musical depths around the word "heavy" and a new simplified duo texture introducing the word "pure"; voices are gradually added again, to add luster to the gold. The soft voices of the singing angels are conjured in newly simplified chords, though the angelic choir is intimately related to the Light by musical similarities in the expectant chord pairs. The final passage finally mentions the newborn Child. To highlight this moment, Whitacre introduces a suddenly bright, full, and pure major sonority (though in a traditionally unresolved inversion). Yet though the change in harmonic content is striking and reverent, the overall music remains utterly related to the beginning revelation of light (in paired chords), and in surrender to it.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2017 Alba NCD 54
    2017 Footprint Records FRCD 087
    2017 Footprint Records FRCD 085
    2016 Sony Classical 88985357702
    2016 BIS BIS 2200
    2016 Decca B002464702
    2015 Mark Records 51524 MCD
    2015 London Oriana Choir
    2015 Delos DE 3485
    2015 Regent REGCD 427
    2014 BYU Music Group / Byu Records YCD 0213EW1
    2013 BR Klassik 900507
    2013 2L 2L 095SABD
    2012 Signum Classics SIGCD 304
    2012 Rondeau ROP 6064
    2012 Decca 2758053
    2012 Fuga Fuga 9343
    2012 Naxos 8503264
    2012 Signum Classics SIGCD 297
    2011 Aliud Records 34
    2011 Signum Classics SIGCD 262
    2011 The Gift of Music CCLCDG1232
    2011 Valley Entertainment 215230
    2011 MSR Classics MS 1292
    2011 Valparaiso University VMCD 1025
    2011 X5 Music Group X 5CD103
    2011 Raven OAR 924
    2011 Gothic Records G49227
    2010 BBC Music Magazine 326
    2010 Naxos 8559677
    2010 Hyperion 30028
    2010 Decca / Universal
    2010 Decca 14850
    2010 Dooload. De / Zebralution
    2009 BIS 1833
    2008 Ars Produktion 38041
    2008 Avi 55305
    2008 ATMA Classique 2577
    2008 BigHelium Records 4
    2007 Klavier Records 11163
    2007 Gothic Records 49252
    2007 Reference Recordings 110
    2007 Mormon Tabernacle 70071
    2007 Delphian DCD34047
    2006 Hyperion 67543
    2005 Avie 2078
    2005 Glencoe McGraw-Hill 61131
    2003 Arsis Audio 147
    da Chiesa Sound Recordings 115
    Summit Records 528
    Richard Zielinski Singers
    Quire of Voyces
    Northwest Chamber Chorus 2411