Oh Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High: Variations on the Agincourt Carol
The English folk song which provides the melodic material for Variations on the Agincourt Carol dates to the early 15th century, and the variations themselves develop and unfold from the carol's verse, which appears without the refrain in many hymnbooks paired with the text "O Love, How Deep, How Broad, How High" (attrib. Thomas á Kempis). The work illustrates six commonly sung verses of the hymn, a short narrative of the life of Christ. The introduction portrays the author's opening couplet, a rapturous contemplation of the incarnation, the heartbeat of Christ represented by the pianist's extended technique. The first variation of the theme is a dissonant depiction of the temptation faced by Christ in the desert, while the second variation depicts by use of a quietly steadfast and heartbeat-like pedal point the teaching and intercessory prayers of Jesus. The crux of the musical work coincides with the fourth and fifth verses, stanzas which portray Christ's suffering, death, and resurrection. This central tenant of Christianity is also central to the musical work, manifest in the fading and return of the heartbeat motive. Finally, as in many hymns, the last verse functions as a doxology—in this case, a triumphant coda.
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