Posts Tagged ‘ Polyphony ’

John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Æterne Rex altissime

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October 13, 2015

The hymn Aeterne Rex altissime (Eternal king most high) is rather more than a thousand years old. It was first cited by the Saxon monk, theologian and poet  Gottschalk of Orbais (808 AD -867 AD) and included the 9th-century New Hymnal.  Sheppard's setting would have been intended to be sung at Vespers on Ascension Day, it's for five voices and based on its style I think he must have composed it during Queen Mary's reign rather than during the reign of Henry VII. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474): Flos florum

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September 18, 2015

flos florumThe text Dufay's Marian three-part (ATT) motet Flos FLorum is to be found in the Analecta hymnica medii aevi.  It's a song motet which means firstly that Dufay composed the melody in its entirety making no reference to the chant, and secondly that unlike previous generations' motets their form is neither inferred nor derived from the rhythmic periodicity of the the line. It's not isorhythmic in other words. Dufay rapidly made freely composed motets of this type his primary vehicle for his musical experiments which included making his devotional motets such as this one sound as much like a polyphonic chanson as possible generally, as you can hear below, by making the two lowest voices (tenor and contratenor) support the highest voice (cantus). As the motet unfolds this chanson-like structure becomes very clear with the cantus' role being highlighted with some very ornate writing which Dufay interrupts by causing the three voices to sing in homophony as the motet draws to its conclusion. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Viri Galilaei & Missa Viri Galilaei

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August 30, 2015

The text of Palestrina's six-part (SSATTB or AATBBB) setting of the Introit proper for Ascension Day Viri Galilaei  comes from Acts 1:11. The motet was first published in 1569 in Rome in the Liber primus motettorum, 5–7vv. It's a very dramatic piece of music whose striking shifts in voice groupings, extensive homophony, and the wonderful cascading descending figures at the Alleluia make it some of the most glittering music that he ever wrote. He was plainly pleased with the motet because he used it as the basis for his Mass setting Missa Viri Galilaei .

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Francisco Guerrero ( 1528 – 1599): Prudentes virgines

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July 28, 2015

Francisco Guerrero's five-part motet Prudentes virgines (wise virgins) sets a text based on the Gospel parable of the ten virgins (the parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins) it was first published in Venice in 1570.  Guerrero was greatly admired by his contemporaries not least Alonso Lobo who based his Missa Prudentes virgines upon Guerrero's motet. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Peter Philips (1560-1628): Regina Caeli laetare

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April 10, 2015

The Regina Caeli is one of four Marian antiphons traditionally said or sung after compline. It is said throughout Eastertide –  the fifty day period from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, and during that period can be said in place of the Angelus. Philips'  setting while it is for two choirs is more Roman than Venetian in its style it was a moderately conservative piece for its time eschewing the extremes of dissonance and chromaticism that were so popular amongst the Italian avant garde. Instead Philips made use of highly coloured and expressive harmonies and confined his use of contrapuntal imitation to the antiphon's opening bars. Philips as a loyal Catholic who had fled his native England in order to freely practice his faith was determined that his music would uphold and glorify the teachings of the Church particularly the one which held that any sung texts should be clearly discernible. I think he succeeded very well the text being sung is clear and is clearly illustrated, so despite the various compositional tricks that he employed such as contrasts between long and short notes and the passing of phrases from one side to the other, the congregation could easily follow and absorb the text and its musical illustration. It's a joyous piece sung at a joyful time the effect on his listeners isn't recorded but it have been almost like listening to a madrigal. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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