Posts Tagged ‘ Cantus Firmus ’

Feature: Josquin Des Prez (±1450 – 1521): Missa Ave Maris Stella

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November 16, 2014

Josquin's Missa Ave maris stella is a relatively early that must have been composed sometime between 1495 and 1505 when it appeared as the opening work in the second book of Josquin's Masses published by Ottaviano Petrucci the Venetian master printer and publisher. It's a cantus firmus work in other words Josquin used the melody of another piece of  music as the musical foundation for this setting of the Mass. As the name Missa Ave maris stella might lead you to expect the cantus firmus Josquin used was the Dorian mode Marian hymn of that name and which I include as the starting track in the recording below.

This hymn which was appointed to be sung at First Vespers on feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary was very popular and very greatly loved. Even as Gregorian chant there are six settings of it that I know of and there could well have been more there's also a very well-known setting by Dufay. Not being one to  pass up an opportunity Josquin's setting makes heavy use of it as a cantus firmus. You can hear it throughout the Mass both as a structural voice subject to embellishment or as the foundation for some highly developed imitation. It's a really stunning setting in which Josquin somehow manages to combine some quite severe contrapuntal writing with intensely declamatory treatment of the text and numinous euphony. It's a compositional tour de force in which Josquin clearly set out to show what he could do and I find it very difficult to pick out one highlight over another so I'll confine myself to mentioning just a few points.

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Josquin Des Prez (±1450-1521): O virgo virginium

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November 15, 2014

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:

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John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Libera nos, salva nos I

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July 21, 2014

Although the text of Libera nos, salva nos is from the first antiphon at Matins on Trinity Sunday its  plea to to the Holy Trinity for freedom, redemption, and absolution is so general in tone that Sheppard's setting which most probably dates from his time at Magdalen College, Oxford was used on other occasions not the least of them being the twice-daily readings of this very text stipulated in Magdalen's statutes. It'smore than a little unusual for Sheppard's works because as you listen you can hear the cantus firmus in the lower voice. As a result of this the rate at which the harmonies change are really rather slow and this together with its modal stability creates the mood of serenity which deepens as the piece unfolds. It's one of my favourites amongs Sheppard's pieces for this reason. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Feature: Johannes Ockeghem (1410-1497) – Missa L’homme armé

February 19, 2014

Clerks Group 325x302 captionedIn common with other composers of his era Johannes Ockeghem (1410-1497) composed a setting of the Mass using the catchy popular song L'homme armé (The armed man) as a cantus firmus underpinning the structure. Unlike many of his contemporaries in Ockeghem's setting you can clearly hear it right throughout the work. In the playlist below you can hear it sung first in a version by Robert Mouton, combined with a rondeau Il sera pour vous which was one of its earliest polyphonic settings. Followed by the Mass. I particularly love how in the Agnus Dei it appears, oh so slowly, in the bass, taken down to low G to stunning effect. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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Robert Parsons (c1535-1572): Peccantem me quotidie

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November 4, 2013

AllSaintsChurchSturtoncaptioned

We don't know all that much about Robert Parsons although as he was an assistant to Richard Bower, Master of the Children Choristers of the Chapel Royal until 1561 it seems likely that he started his musical career as a choir boy. He was appointed Gentleman of the Chapel Royal on 17 October 1563 and in 1567 was granted a Crown lease for twenty-one years on three rectories near Lincoln (‘Sturton, Randbie and Staynton’) and may have taught William Byrd who succeeded to his post as Gentleman of the Chapel Royal following Parsons' death by drowning near Newark-on-Trent. Not much of his music survives nine pieces in Latin, two Services in English, two anthems in English, a few secular songs and even fewer instrumental pieces including five In nomines. It seems to me to be likely that Parsons wasn't active as a composer during the reign of Edward VI. 'Peccantem me quotidie' the work featured in this post to my mind dates very clearly from Mary's reign because Parsons designed its structure to  conform to the liturgical needs of the Sarum rite. The music itself which dramatically underscores the fervency of the text makes me wish that more of his compositions had survived. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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