Nicolaus Craen (±1440-1507): Tota pulchra es

Although much of his life and music are now sunk in obscurity his contemporaries greatly admired this Southern Netherlands composer. He spent the last six years of his life as the sangmeester of the Confraternity of Our Lady in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and it’s known that the chapter of St Donatian, Bruges made at least one attempt to persuade him to take up the post of maître de chapelle in succession to Antonius Divitis. Nearly thirty years after his death Othmar Luscinius, writing in 1536 praised his setting of Tota pulchra es the antiphon for the psalms of Second Vespers for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Lusinius considered that Craen’s setting proved that he had "moved beyond even the ancient laws" and his skill in ‘composing harmonies’ was so great that he was an exemplar for all aspiring composers of his day. It’s not hard to see why Luscinius thought that Craen’s Tota pulcra es was so modern, the way in which Craen paraphrased the antiphonal melody in  an imitative structure that made use of all four voices equally was still something of a rarity even a generation after Craen had died. No doubt the Craen’s skilful control of the motet’s pacing and its texture served to impress Luscinis further. Enjoy :-)


Nicolaus Craen (±1440-1507): Tota pulchra es

Tota pulchra es amica mea et macula non est in te.
Favus distillans labia tua mel et lac sub lingua tua:
odor unguentorum super omnia aromata.
Iam enim hiems transiit imber abiit et recessit.
Flores apparuerunt vinee florentes odorem dederunt
et vox turturis audita est in terra nostra.
Surge propera amica mea et veni de libano.
Veni egrediamur foras in agrum,
videamus si floruissent vinee,
germinassent mala punica, columba mea.
Veni, coronaberis.

Song of Songs; antiphon for Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Thou art all fair, my love; there is no stain in thee.
Thy lips drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue.
The smell of thine ointments is better than all spices.
For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear, the vines with the tender grape yield a pleasant odour,
and the voice of the turtle dove is heard in our land.
Rise up, my love, and come from Lebanon.
Come, let us go out into the field,
let us see if the vines flourished,
the pomegranates budded, my dove.
Come, thou shalt be crowned.


The Binchois Consort conducted by Andrew Kirkman

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