I've written about the great 'O' antiphons frequently, or to be more precise I've written about seven of them. These are the seven antiphons that are sung in the week before Christmas starting with 'O Sapientia' and concluding ón December 23rd with 'O Emmanuel' most people think that these seven antiphons – the 'Great Antiphons' as they are often referred to are the only antiphons for this time, but this is wrong in fact there are other antiphons which are proper to this week as the list below which I take from Guéranger shows:
- Dec. 17: O Sapientia (I)
- Dec. 18: O Adonai (II)
- Dec. 18: The Expectation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary (O Virgo virginum)
- Dec. 19: O Radix Jesse (III)
- Dec. 20: O Clavis David (IV), plus O Gabriel!
- Dec. 21: Saint Thomas, Apostle
- Dec. 21: O Oriens (V)
- Dec. 22: O Rex Gentium (VI), plus O Rex pacifice
- Dec. 23: O Emmanuel (VII), plus O Hierusalem!
- Dec. 24: Christmas Eve - The Vigil Of Christmas (Generally: Advent)
Of these 'extra' antiphons perhaps the best known is O Virgo virginum which is the antiphon for the Feast of The Expectation Of The Blessed Virgin Mary. This was sung in England under the Sarum rite and also in Spain where the cult of The Virgin was – and is, particularly strong. During Josquin's time it was also popular in Rome which presumably is why he composed this very beautiful setting of it. I think it must be a relatively early work – by which I mean written relatively early on during Josquin's Roman period so 1480 or not long thereafter. It's a six-part setting that combines strict cantus firmus writing with some hauntingly beautiful free-flowing polyphony. It's almost Burgundian in sound and I can't help thinking that he wrote it as part of his tribute to Ockeghem and Regis. Enjoy :-).