A Spotless Rose

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Many musical settings of this text have been composed, some long ago but a large number even in recent years.  The ascending three-note pattern that begins in the accompaniment forms the motivic basis for this piece.  Although the key signature and opening bars seem to indicate a tonality of D-minor, the significance of two chords in particular (C major and G major) lend this setting a distinctly Dorian modal quality.  The two verses are set essentially strophically, with the sopranos and altos opening the first verse and tenors and basses beginning the second.  In each verse, the music expands through the first four lines and reaches its highest point both in dynamic and pitch range at the end of the fifth, before ending each verse with the same rising motive that began it.  After the conclusion of the second verse, the piano takes the ascending motive and develops it further, while the choir meditates on the “cold winter’s night,” the last phrase of the text.