Every country in the world, praise the LORD!All the people (in the world), praise him!
His kind love for us is very strong.And he will always do what he has promised.Alleluia!
For all its brevity, the Psalm is not simple to translate. Here is the Hebrew original, with a literal translation beneath:
א הַלְלוּ אֶת-ה', כָּל-גּוֹיִם; שַׁבְּחוּהוּ, כָּל-הָאֻמִּים.
ב כִּי גָבַר עָלֵינוּ, חַסְדּוֹ-- וֶאֱמֶת-ה'לְעוֹלָם:
"Praise God all the peoples; laud Him all nations.
For His loving-kindness overcomes us; and truth God, mysteriously eternal, Praise God."
Contrasted in the second verse are two fundamental attributes of God: Chesed (Heb.: "loving-kindness"), and emet (Heb.: "truth, verity"). The former is all-encompassing, all-forgiving; the latter is absolute and never-changing. (For an outstanding exposition of the Psalm in light of these two poles of its composition, see this post.)
The only way I know to comprehend the depth of this two-line psalm, not having spent a lifetime immersed in the beauties of the Hebrew language, is to listen to a setting of it to music -- as it was intended originally to be heard (that is: sung, not spoken). And of all the settings of it which have been made over the centuries, there is surely none that matches this:
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 seculorum. Amen.
This gem closes Mozart's Vesperae solennes de confessore (K. 339), most probably written for a liturgical occasion of great importance to his native Salzburg: the vespers performed on the feast day of St. Rupert (September 24) in 1780. (St. Rupert was the patron saint ["confessor"] of Salzburg, and along with St. Virgil was also the patron saint of its cathedral. You can read a fine study about the background for Mozart's composition by downloading this .pdf document.)
As commenter St. Nikao noted on an earlier post regarding Beethoven, this was a personally difficult time for Mozart, who had just lost his mother while the two were traveling, in Paris. As is so often true of Mozart, however, not a trace of his personal troubles is present in his music. While it may be said that Beethoven's music exalts mankind to the heavens, Mozart's music seems to have been made in heaven to begin with.
There are so many versions of Laudate dominum on the Web that it was impossible to choose the single best, though for beauty of articulation, the version with Genia Kühmeier above is difficult to improve upon. Nevertheless, I would like to commend to you at least three other versions, each with its own stellar qualities. This version by Cecilia Bartoli expresses a reverence for the text that remains fresh and innocent, never cloying:
There are two much older versions also available, each coming from a similar school of bel canto: here are links to a classic version by Lucia Popp, and to a rarely-heard recording of a 1987 performance at M.I.T. by a 21-year-old Cheryl Studer. (Note to self: don't bother trying to listen to any version which is performed in under four minutes; and the real test of a singer's abilities becomes apparent the more she risks taking five full minutes in which to exploit all of the music's glorious phrases.)
It is a fitting note on which to end the year: Praise the Lord, all ye nations!