Tuesday, 14 February 2012

'Crucifixus' - Antonio Lotti (1667 - 1740)

An extract from the opening of Lotti's 'Crucifixus'
Antonio Lotti's 'Crucifixus' is a wonderful example of polyphony. Defined as music with a texture consisting of two or more indpendent melodic voices, Lotti's typical SSAATTBB arrangement is a perfect example of how to do it right. Despite the fact he produced a number of varied works in his lifetime such as masses, cantatas and even operas, (his operatic music being particularly dramatic and harmonically daring) it was Lotti's - often unaccompanied - choral works that made his name so famous.

His work is considered to be a bridge between the Baroque and Classical eras, and is thought to have influenced some of the greatest composers of his time such as Bach and Handel, who both had copies of Lotti's mass, 'Missa Sapientiae'. I myself am a great lover of polyphony; something which I feel is slightly neglected in most of today's contemporary choral writing. Other well-known composers of the genre include Tallis (1505 - 1585), Byrd (1540 - 1623) and Palestrina (1525 - 1594), all of whom came from the Renaissance period, where polyphony first began. Lotti is most famous for his 'Crucifixus' in 8 parts. Although it is not generally known that this motet actually comes from a larger work: 'Credo in F minor for choir and orchestra'.

Note the harmonic pattern of each of the vocal entries in the extract on the right. With every other entry, Lotti creates a semitone clash that sounds both mysterious and beautiful, which reflects the sad tone of the text about Christ's crucifiction. These clashes become even more satisfying when each of them resolve on the following beat. Despite the use of polyphony at the beginning and end of the piece, there are several moments and sections in which Lotti uses a homophonic texture to great effect, such as the second section with the text, 'crucifixus etiam pro nobis' meaning: he was crucified for us. For me, the obvious climax of the piece is at 2.10, where the voices reach their higher tessitura, and there is a natural crescendo towards the text, 'passus et sepultus est', which is loosely translated means, 'suffered and was buried.'


  1. This is absolutely one of the most beautiful classical pieces I have ever heard. Mournful yet sweet, it reaches a depth of human emotion that is rare and sublime. Thank you for your rich explanation.

  2. I heard this performed by the Indialantic Chamber Singers in a church, where the singers formed a ring around the room. Closing your eyes and turning your head allowed you to hear it from different perspectives. Truly surround sound at it's finest. I was entranced by the beauty of it.

  3. I am trying to find a recording of this, however I do not see any Credo in F minor, but I do see F Major. I see Credo's in other minor keys. Can you clarify?