O salutaris hostia


Getting started

Thomas van Aquino

The text is by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), written for the lauds on Corpus Christi, namely the hymn Verbum supernum prodens. The last two stanzas of this O salutaris hostia were added later by the Cistercians and set to music separately by many composers.

Colla parte?

For anyone who loves choral music from Flanders, this is not a difficult score. The key (E, with 4 sharps) may scare some at first, but in fact the whole piece is easy to sing. Moreover, the composer does not work with extreme tessituras. The composition can be divided into five phrases:

- A: bar 1 to 8
- B: bar 9 to 15
- C: upbeat bar 16 to 21
- D: upbeat bar 22 to 27
- E: Amen: second half bar 27 to end

Learning this work is best done per phrase. The A sharp in the second phrase does need some extra attention, both in an upward and downward direction. The organ accompaniment continuously supports the choir; it is not completely colla parte, but nearly. In principle, the organ accompaniment could be omitted, but we still recommend performing it with accompaniment as it provived more warmth and color to the entire piece.

Homophone versus unison

O salutaris hostia is a predominantly homophonic composition. Usually the work is conceived in 4 parts, except from upbeat bar 16 to bar 21 with the text “Unitrinoque Domino" (The one, triune Lord, be eternal praise and honor). Here the composer consciously uses a powerful unison passage.

Tempo and dynamics

The composer indicates andante as the tempo: we have two ways of conducting the piece. It can be conducted in four, but it can also be conducted in a slow two. If you would opt to conduct it in two, it is necessary to make a subdivision at certain points. For example at the start of Uni trinoque Domino because of the upbeat. This also applies to bar 22 with upbeat. It is best to conduct the Amen from the end in four for the sake of the rallentando. The dynamics are very important in the performance of this work. The directions in the score go from p to ff with everything in between. Take care of these dynamic differences, make them big enough, build a crescendo and don't start the decrescendo too quickly. With its 29 bars, this work falls into the category of shorter works: useful for studying, but also useful for use in the liturgy.

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