Gluck wrote his De profundis in his final year of life (1787), and never heard it performed. Although it was originally written with orchestral accompaniment, modern performance practice is typically a capella. This is probably due to the premiere performance of the piece at Gluck's funeral, where his friend Salieri conducted.
Click for full score of De profundis.
Using only verses 1, 2, and 8, Gluck wrote a very somber setting of the Psalm 130 in D minor. Often used with Requiem, it is ironic that Gluck wrote this piece just before his death in 1787.
Though the piece employs varying textures, the feeling of the Classical homophonic texture is somehow weaved throughout the piece. The melody is clearly emphasizing a solemn lyricism that is very characteristic of the Classical period, and some would even call it Mozartian.
While many times the form is text driven, the piece adheres to Classical practice of having symmetrical phrases lengths. In general, phrases are 2 or 4 measures and have strong cadences. Harmonically speaking, Gluck explores many keys but remains loyal to diatonic relationships through the use of V-I cadences. Additionally, the harmonic rhythm of the piece moves slowly and is completely driven by the melody.
Compared to Gluck's operas, this motet is astonishingly different while following many of the philisophical reforms he made to opera. "The chorus writing is basically chordal and syllabic, like so many of the pagan hymns in the operas, but differing from these in the variety of emotional states experienced in the single movement, and in the occasional pseudo-fugal entries which would have been stylistically irrelevant to an opera chorus. However all Gluck's range of harmonic and melodic style from the operas was available for the sacred work-we can see how close the language draws... There is also in some passages a new, mature, warmth of style that can be called Mozartian (in spite of his friendship with Salieri, Gluck was interesting himself in Mozart at this time, in particular Die Entfuhrung) which is in itself a sufficient reason for us to regret the operas Gluck did not write in these years," (Howard, 1964).
I chose this piece because I feel that it deserves far more recognition than it recieves as one of Gluck's greater works. Of course, his work with opera made durastic changes to the way music was composed, but here, we see the same ideas in a piece that is easy to listen to, study, and perform. In my humble opinion, I find this to be a greatly educational piece to use in the classroom.
Bonds, Mark Evans. A History of Music in Western Culture. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice-Hall, 2013.
Brown, Bruce Alan and Julian Rushton. "Gluck, Christoph Willibald Ritter von." Grove Music Online. Oxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed March 24, 2014, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/11301pg7.
Howard, Patricia. "A Note on Gluck's 'De Profundis'." The Musical Times no. 1455 (1964): 352-53. http://www.jstor.org/stable/949930 (accessed March 23, 2014).