From the Cretan chanting tradition of the 16th–17th centuries
A radical and original musical setting of the Great Doxology
The Great Doxology is the most developed form of doxological hymn as part of the daily liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church (nychthemeron). It is amongst the oldest sacred hymns, chanted since ancient times down to the present day.
From the time its first appearance in the musical sources up to the present day, the Great Doxology has undergone a long evolutionary process corresponding to the broader evolution of sacred music during the Byzantine and post-Byzantine era. Its musical setting is first recorded in the manuscript sources of the second half of the 14th century. This is not a particularly creative period as far as Doxology settings are concerned. This is an anonymous setting of the hymn’s initial hemistich and of its conclusion which includes the Trisagion Hymn in second chromatic mode. From the 15th century we have two settings of the hymn, by Manuel Gazis and John Plousiadenos respectively, both of them great melodists. The first setting in the form that was to be followed by all later compositions (melodically sophisticated and stressing all the verses) was composed in 1620 by Melchisedec of Rhaedestos. The melodic form of Melchisedec was adopted by all illustrious composers of the 17th century, who created some incomparable musical monuments in all the modes. The tendency of the 18th century towards shorter chants is also obvious in the settings of the Doxologies, resulting in shorter compositions. Later musical masters tried to create a mixed kind of Doxology chant, the slow-short melody. During the same period there were important changes in both the style and the technique of the setting, shifting towards a freer treatment of rhythm and melody.
Copyright (c) 2018 Dimitrios K. Balageorgos
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