Tenebrae stayed socially distanced, but their sound is tight as can be.
The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
and his tongue speaks what is just.
The law of his God is in his heart:
and his feet do not falter.
I have found David, my servant;
I have anointed him with my holy oil.
The esteemed sacred choir, Tenebrae, recorded this rendition of Bruckner’s “Os Justi” at the tail end of 2020. As it was in the midst of the world pandemic, the singers performed from a social distance. Although they were all standing feet apart, their sound is as tight as can be.
The phenomenal vocal performance doesn’t take long to get started. From the moment the piece begins the chorus begins a slow crescendo that reaches its peak about 40 seconds in. The tremendous tones Tenebrae brings forth are made all the more thrilling by the splendid acoustics of St. Augustine’s Church, where the piece was recorded, in Kilburn.
“Os Justi” is a 19th-century composition from the composer Anton Bruckner. Bruckner, an Austrian composer, was well known for his Masses and motets. “Os Just” is a motet; it is a gradual, which can be sung in place of the responsorial psalm of the Ordinary Form.
According to The Virginia Glee Club wiki, the piece was a bit shorter at its inception. Bruckner brought the hymn to Ignaz Traumihler, choirmaster of St. Florian Abbey, who immediately turned to the composer and asked “Ist’s der ganze Text?” (Is this the whole text?).
Bruckner’s response was not recorded, but he soon added a new verse to the text, which was placed right before the “Allelujah.” The original text was drawn from just two verses of Psalm 37, but the second verse Bruckner added was sourced from Psalm 89.
The hymn was written for the celebration of Traumihler’s name-day, but it was not ready in time for it. Instead Bruckner and Traumihler performed the tune a few weeks later, on St. Augustine’s name-day, with Bruckner on the organ and Traumihler conducting. Still, we wonder if they could have sounded as phenomenal as Tenebrae did in December of 2020.