More than two thousand seven hundred years ago, God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, saying, “And I … am about to come and gather the people of all nations and languages, and they will come and see my glory” (66:18). And He did come just as He promised, in the incarnate Savior, Jesus Christ. Now many peoples of all manner and kind, from every nation, gather to proclaim His glory and praise His name.
On the odd occasion that I have stood in the chancel during church, I have been privileged to see a glimpse of the great gathering in heaven. As the people sang their songs, their faces lit with joy in and praise of God, it mattered not what their race or color, whether young or old, male or female, well-dressed or shabby, as all these differences were rendered inconsequential. If their faces reflected their immediate awareness of the mercy they had received from their Maker through the cross, there was a soft vibrancy in their expression, quickened with the knowledge that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18 NASB).
Mozart’s Laudate Dominum captures such moments. When the soloist opens with a call for the nations to praise God for His mercy, the perspective is one of a single voice expressing a singular emotion and truth. The exhortation magnifies into a multitude of voices singing the Gloria Part, praising God “for generations of generation.” The vision is suddenly enlarged to an eternal one, then telescopes back to the soloist, one among many, joyfully ending with her exquisite “Amen” in agreement, in praise, in adoration of the eternal holy God.
The text is Psalm 117, the shortest of the psalms. Mozart brings out the purity of its poetics in this transcendent musical interpretation.
“Laudate Dominum” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1780
Laudate Dominum omnes gentes;
Laudate eum, omnes populi.
Quoniam confirmata est
Super nos misericordia ejus,
Et veritas Domini manet in aeternum.
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper.
Et in saecula saeculorum.
Praise the Lord, all nations;
Praise him, all people.
For he has bestowed
His mercy upon us,
And the truth of the Lord endures forever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
As it was in the beginning, is now, and forever,
And for generations of generations.
W. A. Mozart's "Laudate Dominum" is the fifth of six parts of a larger piece known as the Vesperae solennes de confessore (K.339). It was commissioned by the Archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus von Colloredo, and composed in September 1780 in Salzburg.