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Rediscovering Abos

Rediscovering Abos

Valletta Baroque Festival 2024


   The Abos Project & Consort



Francesca Aquilina

Maria Grazia Grech

Maria Micallef Tortell

Analise Mifsud

Nadia Vella

Bettina Zammit

Gillian Zammit


Francesca Buhagiar

Raisa Marie Micallef

Bianca Simone


Tom Armitage

Karl Cassar

Stanley Joe Portelli


Mark Bartolo

Stjanu Debono


Girolamo Abos (1715 – 1760)

Lezione terza del Giovedì Santo for Soprano and instruments, 

premiere modern concert

(sourced from the Archives of Munich)

Te Deum laudamus

premiere modern concert 

(sourced from the Girolamini Archives in Naples)

Litanie Lauretane for two voices for Soprano, Alto and instruments, 

premiere modern concert 1 

(from the Archives of Münster)

Tantum ergo for solo Soprano with violin, 

premiere modern concert 

(from the Archives of  S. Pietro a Maiella of Napoli)

Lezione terza del Giovedì Santo for Soprano and instruments 

(from the Archives of Parma)

Veni creator spiritus premiere modern concert 

(from the Girolamini Archives in Naples)

Programme Notes  

In the Roman Catholic liturgy, the readings for the first "Nocturn Matins" of the triduum sacrum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday) consist of the lamentations of Jeremiah, or parts of the Old Testament prophetic book of the same name. Often, the lamentations are sung, which is why along with the great responsories, they are musically the most important texts of the "Tenebrae" and were set to polyphonic music by leading composers since the 15th century. A distinctive feature of these readings is the appearance of the Hebrew letters (Aleph, Beth, Ghimel) at the beginning of each verse. Indeed, in the original Hebrew, the five chapters of the lament are largely an alphabetical acrostic. Finally, each reading ends with the verse "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum", which is not taken from Jeremiah but from Hosea 14:2.

Until the 1500s, many local tonalities flourished, with even obvious melodic differences.

After the Council of Trent (1545-1563), a single tonus lamentationum was officially prescribed in the Roman liturgy, i.e. one of the simplest existing formulas, structurally linked to the sixth psalm tone.

Only for the Oratio Jeremiae was it possible to use a tonus lamentationum of Spanish origin, melodically rich and ornate. In fact, this latter tone had remained alive because, despite the abolition of the old Hispanic (Mozarabic) rite in the Iberian peninsula, the custom of singing laments in the local tonus lamentationum continued in Spain throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. The chant-piano in these Hispanic keys was also used later by a large number of Spanish composers in their polyphonic scores of lamentations. 

The main ceremony that accompanies the service is the extinguishing of candles placed on a saettia placed in the chancel. The extinguishing of the candles follows a precise order.

The first fourteen candles are extinguished after each of the nine morning psalms and the five psalms of praise, beginning with the lowest candles and extinguishing them alternately, one on the right and the other on the left. The six altar candles remain lit until the Benedictus. At the end of the Benedictus, all the other lights in the church are extinguished and the last remaining lit candle is removed from the saettia and placed behind the altar so that the light is shielded from the altar itself, and so that the office ends in total darkness.  

The “earthquake" or strepitus, which is produced by slamming books or hands against the pew, or even by stamping one's feet, symbolises the earthquake that occurred at the Lord's death, but may have originally been a signal to leave. After showing the last lit candle

to the people, it is extinguished and placed on the credence table or taken to the sacristy.

The dismissal takes place in silence.

In the wake of this tradition, we are happy to be able to present today, and for the first time in their modern performance, the two lamentations of Maundy Thursday composed in Naples by Girolamo Abos which were recently re-discovered by Marco Mencoboni. 

These two precious compositions, the first in C minor, preserved in the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma and the second in B flat major preserved in Munich.  Being written to the same text, the two compositions denote the same compositional approach to the text traditionally sung on the Thursday before Easter: the approach to the sacred word seems to break away from traditional usage, the word serving more as inspiration for the construction of rhythmic elements that chase each other in imitative style, while the soprano solo voice receives special attention in terms of lyricism and performance complexity.

In addition to the two Lamentations, we are delighted to be able to present a modern performance of Le Litanie lauretane for soprano, contralto and orchestra, preserved in manuscript in the Santini Fund in Münster and two short choral compositions preserved in the Girolamini Archives in Naples. 

As a tribute to the tireless work carried out by Dun Ġwann Azzopardi in the 1980s, we have transcribed and will perform the Tantum ergo for soprano and instruments preserved in the Library of the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella in Naples, and a copy of which was kept by Dun Ġwann in the Mdina Archives.

26 January 2024
Tarxien Parish Church, Tarxien
€20 - €40
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Valletta Baroque Festival 2024

Rediscovering Abos

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