Ave Verum Corpus is a hymn, originally sung in Catholic homes, referencing Jesus’ Last Supper. The piece has been arranged differently over many centuries – William Byrd in the Renaissance period, Edward Elgar in the Romantic period and Francis Poulenc in the 20th Century. The three ‘versions’ of Ave Verum Corpus have pivotal similarities and differences, showcasing the different styles of each composer. The most obvious similarity between all three adaptions is the text, a vital part of a Catholic worship service. The melodic shape of the pieces are very similar, with the melody building to important phrases such as ‘O Jesu, File Mariae’ (Oh Jesus, Son of Mary). The phrase reaches a climax point before receding away. The timbre remains the same throughout all three adaptions – SATB, except the Elgar has an organ/piano part. The texture is a key difference between the Byrd/Elgar and the Poulenc. Because Poulenc was writing in the 20th Century, the characteristics of the time were very different to Elgar and Byrd. Impressionism was encouraged so the layering of parts was very different. The range of dynamics used in the Poulenc is not subtle, like the Byrd and the Elgar. The Byrd had a mostly homophonic texture, with the occasional polyphonic writing and one section in canon. This is the ‘style’ of the Renaissance time, nothing that took away from the solemn worship people of the time were accustomed to. Whereas Poulenc wrote polyphonically, creating a jovial sense and a more lively piece (even though his adaptation is in a minor). The use of irregular phrasing of the overlapping melodies was featured in Poulenc. The text even overlaps with each other due to the question answer style between the Soprano 1 and Soprano 2 parts. The layering of the Elgar is similar to the Byrd, with sombre sustained chords in the organ part. Elgar begins with a single soprano line before the second verse...
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