This twenty-four part (6 × SATB) setting by Josquin of the text of first eight verses of Psalm 90 in the Vulgate. It’s composed of four interwoven six-voice canons augmented by some very intricate and detailed decoration underlain by a harmonic ostinato. Gabriel Jackson’s notes for the performance below can’t be bettered by me:
Surviving only in German sources published after his death, the attribution of Qui habitat to Josquin des Prez has been questioned on stylistic grounds, it being thought too simple a conception to be the work of such a sophisticated polyphonist. Simple its essence may be – the piece is made entirely of four interwoven six-voice canons – but it teems with intricate detail. The harmonic ostinato that underpins the overlapping lines becomes ever more insistent as the piece progresses, hypnotic in its mantra-like repetitions, while the contrapuntal scintillation that enlivens it throws out new free dissonances and melodic computations with every hearing. The seemingly monolithic, unchanging texture is rich with life, and in the work’s closing pages, as all twenty-four parts continue their inexorable imitative progress, a bright carillon of bell sounds rings out from the texture. Rather than working its canonic way down to silence the piece simply stops in mid-process, a vision of eternity arbitrarily snatched away.
Josquin Des Prez (±1450 – 1521): Qui habitat
|90:1 Qui habitat in adjutorio Altissimi, in protectione Dei cæli commorabitur. |
2 Dicet Domino: Susceptor meus es tu et refugium meum; Deus meus, sperabo in eum.
3 Quoniam ipse liberavit me de laqueo venantium, et a verbo aspero.
4 Scapulis suis obumbrabit tibi, et sub pennis ejus sperabis.
5 Scuto circumdabit te veritas ejus: non timebis a timore nocturno;
6 a sagitta volante in die, a negotio perambulante in tenebris, ab incursu, et dæmonio meridiano.
7 Cadent a latere tuo mille, et decem millia a dextris tuis; ad te autem non appropinquabit.
8 Verumtamen oculis tuis considerabis et retributionem peccatorum videbis.
Psalmus 90, 1–8 (Vulgate)
|91:1 He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. |
2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.
3 Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.
4 He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
5 Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;
6 Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.
7 A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.
8 Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.
Psalm 91, 1–8 (King James Version)
- National Youth Choir of Great Britain – Conducted By Mike Brewer