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.
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.
- The Binchois Consort conducted by Andrew Kirkman