Veni Creator Spiritus

Veni Creator Spiritus
Authorized by its creator Jdilworth771 into the public domain

The Mahler symphony number 8. I think it is my favorite of his symphonies, although, his symphony number 4 is right up there (and “The Resurrection” Symphony number 2). OK, I will say it: I am a fan of Gustav Mahler (along with many other composers, except Mozart – I cannot abide Mozart – but that is a topic for another time).

Veni Creator Spiritus (Come, Creator Spirit) is the first movement of the Mahler 8 followed by an excerpt from Goethe’s Faust for the second movement. That seems an unlikely pairing, but it works (pun intended). I find it interesting that Mahler chose not to use the Gregorian chant as the basis for the melody. It is also the only orchestral work, that I can think of, which begins with the organ (solo).

Come, Creator Spirit is sung at Pentecost, traditionally. Crown our lives with tongues of flame. The Mahler 8 movement is about 25 minutes long and it is a girdle-buster. (Then you have the second movement which seems to go on for eternity.) The choral score for the symphony is 100 pages long. The first movement (Veni Creator Spiritus) is 75 of those pages. It just flies. When I first performed the Mahler 8, I can remember turning pages in the first movement in, literally, seconds.

Mahler adds to and subtracts from the Latin text. That does not make the work any less powerful. (After all, who could recite the Latin Text? I know I could not.) I suppose that I should mention that while the first movement is sung in Latin, the second movement is sung in German. It is, I believe, the first “choral” symphony. (Beethoven’s ninth is not to be considered a choral symphony because the chorus only sings in the final movement.)

The Mahler 8 is known as, “Symphony of a Thousand” and rightly so. It requires double strings, triple winds, eight tympani, double choir, and a children’s choir. It is one of his best works (in my opinion). Veni Creator Spiritus.


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