The very name of the hymn tune, PASSION CHORALE, speaks the purpose and meaning of this piece. For many, this is the ultimate passion hymn, articulating graphically the suffering of a dying Savior and the appropriate heart response of the saved.
This is perhaps Jeremy Glaser's best piece to date, and was written as a prelude to a Maundy Thursday service. It is also unusual in many ways.
The choice of ensemble-- piano, two cellos, and double bass-- was partly about availability and partly about creating a deep sound to provoke deep thinking about the meaning of the sufferings of the Son of God, a Person of the Trinity, made incarnate and willing to suffer the most horrible of deaths for the sins of mankind.
The piece's modern-art structure and harmony, with all its dissonances and unusual, almost eerie beauty, is always fully supportive of the deep meaning of the text of the three stanzas of the hymn expounded. It pushes the limits of some as to acceptability in a worship service, yet it is able to move the heart in ways that perhaps a more traditional rendering would scarcely be able to do.
This piece is not a novelty number. Ensembles that perform it will likely evoke in their own hearts and the hearts of their listeners deep questions about the meaning and purpose of the passion of Jesus Christ, and in so doing will fulfill the purpose of this work.
O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown;
How pale Thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!
How does that visage languish, which once was bright as morn!
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners’ gain;
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Savior! ’Tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favor, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
O SACRED HEAD NOW WOUNDED, by Hans Leo Hassler, arranged for piano, two cellos, and double bass by Jeremy Glaser, comes in a pdf file of 790K, with a nineteen-page score, eleven-page piano part, three two-page string parts, and a license page, thirty-seven pages in all. Performance time should be about six minutes.