Before Dawn still so the most I can tell...

Is that it's not raining. The Roman Missal celebrated today's feast of the martyrs Saints Marius, Martha, Audifax, and Abachus (am not sure about the declension of the name, honestly) from 1570 forward (and Pius X restored it in Divino afflatu) but between 1670 and 1911, the feast of the martyr King Saint Canute was celebrated instead (with Saints Marius et al commemorated)-- in other words, today the Persian saints have their feast (Introibo, Wiki) with that of Saint Canute commemorated. 

Cardinal Schuster in his Liber sacramentorum.

This group of Persian martyrs, consisting of husband, wife, and two sons, now buried, some at the deaconry of St Adrian and some at the title of St Praxedes, were originally interred ad nymphas Catabassi, at the thirteenth milestone of the Via Cornelia. Their Acta appear to have been added to considerably, and their feast, which is not found in the ancient Roman Sacramentaries, occurs for the first time in a Vatican Calendar of the twelfth certtury. The reason of this silence is probably to be found in the circumstance that before the time of Paschal I these martyrs who were buried in a property at a great distance from Rome were not considered as being Romans at all, and therefore the city had no reason for celebrating their feast. It is very likely that the first insertion of this festival in the Roman Calendar occurred at the time of the translation of their bodies to St Praxedes. The Mass is quite ancient in its essence and evidences a period of the very best liturgical taste....

I'd copy Dom Prosper Guéranger's text for the feast but it's only online in French, so far as I know. Holy Mass is streamed from Saint-Eugène at 1000.

Richard Morrison's review in The Times yesterday of Sir James MacMillan's Christmas Oratorio was enthusiastically laudatory. I'm copying it here since there is a paywall, ahem. 

Not the usual Christmas Oratorio, and not the usual time to hear one either. James MacMillan’s massive new piece-- 90 minutes of thrilling choral and orchestral music that took the prolific Scottish composer the best part of a year to write-- was supposed to have its premiere in London in December, but the lockdown intervened.

So the responsibility of introducing it to the world, under the composer’s direction, fell to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir. And a magnificent job they did of bringing this teeming score to life.

Broadcast live on Saturday afternoon from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, it remains free to enjoy on the Dutch radio website. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Even by MacMillan’s standards this is stunning music: profusely, lushly lyrical and often grounded in traditional tonality, yet infused with dazzlingly original instrumental and vocal ideas that, time and again, had me asking myself: “How did he do that?”

Unlike Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, MacMillan’s doesn’t reflect chronologically on the nativity. Indeed, most of Part 1 is taken up by the tragic later events in the story — Herod’s slaughter of the innocents and the holy family’s forced exile in Egypt — while Part 2, which sets a mighty chunk of Milton as well as the famous opening to St John’s Gospel, is more focused on the coming of light and redemption.

In both parts, however, MacMillan’s handling of narrative and poetry (he also sets John Donne and the martyred Catholic priest Robert Southwell) is remarkably fluid. He creates an ever-changing soundworld of block-chord chanting, ecstatically interweaved polyphony and, for the soprano Mary Bevan and baritone Christopher Maltman (both in top form), operatically heightened solo writing.

All that is then meshed with virtuosic orchestral writing. At one point a solo violin embarks on what sounds like a miniature concerto over the top of a hymn-like choir passage. Elsewhere, there are string lines of Mahlerian expression and opulence, and one astonishing prestissimo passage for full orchestra that is as terrifying as that tearaway fugue in Shostakovich’s Fourth Symphony.

There are enigmatic things too. For such a profound and, in places, dark and disturbing work, the opening is strangely lightweight and skittish, and the ending drifts into nursery tinkles rather than finishing with joyous fortissimos. Perhaps this is MacMillan’s way of signalling that he is attempting to rise above the mundane commercialisation and infantilism of the modern Christmas. Either way, the work deserves many more outings, whatever the season.

I shall have to look at the score and then listen again to the 'prestissimo passage' Mr Morrison found 'terrifying'. I know his name at The Times but, since I don't read his essays very often, I wouldn't say 'I know' his critic's style.

Holy Mass celebrated this morning.

Am lusting after a couple of books but cannot spend hundreds of dollars on them; formerly, before the plague nonsense, I was able to use my Eugene Public Library card to borrow books from the University of Oregon (and my current objects of desire are indeed at Knight Library, on campus, as the catalogue confirms, doubtless unopened for years): during the current catastrophe such things aren't allowed, alas. I wonder what is the fewest number of hoops requiring to be jumped in order to obtain a UO identification card? Hmm. I believe I can buy into an 'adult learning' series for $100 per six months which might work: it would certainly ante pestilentiam have entitled me to use Knight Library; its current effectiveness is uncertain or, more precisely, unconfirmed. I'd probably derive good value e.g. from the 'Romantic and Modern Music' weeks, presentations and discussions, but also probably not a hundred bucks' worth unless I also get access to Knight Library's circulation desk. 

Ante Sextam. Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien are performing in a recorded concert at Wigmore Hall now: Felix Mendelssohn's Violin Sonata in F, with Prokofiev's Five Melodies op 35bis and César Franck's Sonata in A for Violin and Piano to follow. To my recollection I've never seen these two artists on stage together but they are a "regular duo", evidently-- at Wigmore Hall is meant? or elsewhere also? I don't know. There was evidently to have been a work by one of the Boulangers on the program; it has vanished. Ah; the Lili Boulanger Nocturne was the encore.

Post Nonam. The plumber is on his way so that he can re-attach the toilet to the drain and floor rather more securely than he did two weeks ago or whenever it was. The floorers won't lay that final area of flooring until he succeeds at the task appointed. Am listening to my 'Liked from radio' playlist at Spotify: Nada Surf, English Beat, Bastille, Johnny Flynn, and Django Django in the last half hour. Once in every couple of months the fit overtakes me. 

The hymn at Vespers for the feast of the martyrs Saints Pope Fabian and Sebastian; it is the hymn from the commune pro pluribus martyribus, used on feasts of more than one martyr.

Sanctórum méritis ínclyta gáudia
Pangámus, sócii, géstaque fórtia:
Nam gliscit ánimus prómere cántibus
Victórum genus óptimum.

Hi sunt quos rétinens mundus inhórruit:
Ipsum nam stérili flore peráridum
Sprevére pénitus, teque secúti sunt,
Rex Christe bone cǽlitus.

Hi pro te fúrias atque ferócia
Calcárunt hóminum, sǽvaque vérbera:
Cessit his lácerans fórtiter úngula,
Nec carpsit penetrália.

Cædúntur gládiis more bidéntium:
Non murmur résonat, non querimónia:
Sed corde tácito mens bene cónscia
Consérvat patiéntiam.

Quæ vox, quæ póterit lingua retéxere,
Quæ tu Martyribus múnera prǽparas?
Rubri nam flúido sánguine láureis
Ditántur bene fúlgidis.

Te summa Déitas únaque póscimus,
Ut culpas ábluas, nóxia súbtrahas,
Des pacem fámulis, nos quoque glóriam
Per cuncta tibi sǽcula.