Water and Music

Water and Music

When one speaks of water and music, in most cases, the first association is, naturally, the Wassermusik suites by Georg F. Handel. Indeed these works have established themselves as canonic in instrumental music repertoire of Western music. But there are many other relations between water and music, one of them being the purification of the body and soul.

This aspect was widely exploited by composers of sacred vocal polyphony, although it may not seem too apparent in a first look. I have now been working on the two evident works related to water: the two antiphons for aspersion at the beginning of Mass, Asperges me and Vidi aquam. There are many editions in Portuguese polyphonic sources, from printed books to manuscripts. As is usual, I’m focusing in the Évora Cathedral related sources. One of my favourite works is Duarte Lobo’s setting from the 1621 Liber Missarum. I have recorded it several times and there is a post on this blog about it with a video attached.

I will dedicate specific posts about these works in the next times, but for now here are two recordings of Asperges me antiphons by Filipe de Magalhães, from his 1636 Missarum Liber.


It is very difficult to find recordings of these two aspersion antiphons. Groups generally prefer to include motets as small-scale works in CD recordings. But in the same Pro Cantione Antiqua triple-CD on Portuguese polyphony there is another Asperges me, in this case, by Fr. Manuel Cardoso, although I have not yet been able to locate the work in which of the four prints it belongs to.


Cardoso was one of the most productive of Portuguese composers in relation to set these antiphons to polyphony. Generally, mass books open with a setting for each antiphon and Cardoso is no exception. I guess that only in his third book of masses I doesn’t include any.