Johannes Ockeghem (±1410 –1497): Salve Regina

Ockeghem’s reputation during his lifetime was, as Timothy Dickey puts it, ‘stellar’ he was equally admired by his fellow musicians and his patrons amongst whom were numbered no less than three kings of France. His setting of the Salve which you can hear below with its dense and inventive polyphony woven around the chant melody is a good place to start if you’re not familiar with his music or are wondering what all the fuss is about.

The chant melody for Salve Regina was known and loved by clergy and laymen alike in Ockeghem’s time and Ockeghem exploits all the possibilities it affords starting with using its  opening motive during the opening duet the effect of this is heightened in the counterpoint by multiple references to it ranging from the Altus alluding repeatedly to it to the Bassus presenting it transposed down a fourth on entry to the tenor singing it untransposed. Once the opening is concluded Ockeghem builds  his musical structure using the Bassus’ paraphrasing of the chant as the main pillar (this emphasis on a lower register cantus firmus was very unusual at the time). Having established his cantus firmus Ockeghem embellishes it with cadential writing, syncopation, and accelerating the rhythm as the final notes of each section approach – a technique that seems to have been a favourite of his. He doesn’t make much use of imitation in this Salve and when it does appear it does so fleetingly. When we get to the motet’s ending – the three concluding exclamations of "O clemens, O pia, O dulcis virgo semper Maria" Ockeghem introduces what seems to be a local variant of  the chant melody highlighting it in the same manner in which he started the motet. Enjoy :-)

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Johannes Ockeghem (±1410 –1497): Salve Regina

Performers: Hilliard Ensemble conducted by Paul Hillier

Text & Translation: Salve Regina

LatinModern English TranslationTraditional English Translation
Salve regina, mater misericordiae,Hail, O queen, mother of mercy,Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra salve.our life, sweetness and hope, hail.our life, our sweetness and our hope.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae,To thee do we sigh, daughter of Eve,To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
ad te suspiramus gementes et flentesmourning and weepingto thee do we send up our sighs,
in hac lacrimarum valle.in this vale of tears.mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Eia ergo advocata nostraO you our advocate,Turn then, most gracious advocate,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.turn on us thy merciful eyes.thine eyes of mercy toward us;
Et Iesum benedictum fructum ventris tuiAnd after this our exile show unto us Jesus,And after this our exile, show unto us
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.the blessed fruit of thy womb.the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.O merciful, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

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