Wednesday, August 27, 2014

O Salutaris Hostia by Peter Kwasniewski

Peter Kwasniewski’s setting of the devotional Eucharistic hymn, O SALUTARIS HOSTIA (from “Sacred Choral Works ©2014, Corpus Christi Watershed), serves very well for all levels of SATB choir proficiency and is a compact gem that is appropriate for virtually any Mass. This setting should be of particular interest to smaller and novice SATB Choirs and directors, perhaps in concert with those whose initial forays into four parts also use Richard Rice’s “Simple Choral Gradual ” (CMAA)  as pedagogical bridges to more sophisticated and complex pieces.
A memorable melody in the soprano voice, along with solid voice leading and intuitively easy interval leaps in the other voices, some of which have brief moments of “spice” in the chordal treatment make the argument for the accessibility of this piece. The first system is a purely diatonic and “sweet” exposition of the melody with a solid counterpoint in the bass. At the end of the second phrase, “pandis ostium (to us below)” Kwasniewski employs ascending parallel thirds in the trebles as if we were through that comforting harmony reaching up to receive, but he adds flavor on the third beat “-sti-“, by contrasting an established V chord cadence with a Vsus7 cluster. Just a taste. In the next phrase the altos and basses have a sort of voice exchange contrapuntal movement that is also sweet tension that resolves deceptively for the moment to the relative minor with an added 7th.  This sets up a nice melodic sequence in the soprano voice bridging two text phrases, “Bella premunt hostilia, Da robur, fer auxilium.” Kwasniewski deploys another “flavor” moment when he chooses to use I Major 7 on beat three of m.14 in the tenor voice leading, when he could have opted for vi7 as the relative minor is being established by the stanza cadence with the dominant 7th of vi leading to the da capo.

When reaching that same penultimate cadence, his “amen” is a sublime cascade from soprano descending scale motion through the alto into the tenor to the Picardy third major chord of what was the relative minor.

This is a lovely piece of purpose, clarity with enough little flavor gems to keep choral interest. Here is an mp3 recording featuring the incredible Matthew Curtis. In most browsers, you should also find a player bar at the top of this web page.