Hyperion Records

Hortus conclusus es
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In terms of Gombert’s music, a slightly surprising difference between the penitential motets and the Marian ones is that the latter are on occasion significantly more dissonant, and in particular contain more suspension-type dissonance (this is aurally the most obvious kind of dissonance, as compared with passing notes, for instance). It would appear that setting texts of this nature brought an especially intensified musical style from Gombert. This is most true of Hortus conclusus es, where Marian devotion is combined with the eroticism of the Song of Songs. The majority of the motet’s text is taken directly from the Song of Songs (4: 12), but the focus is brought directly onto the Blessed Virgin by altering the first phrase (‘Hortus conclusus es, soror mea, sponsa, fons signatus’) to read ‘You are an enclosed garden, mother of God, a sealed well’. The image of virginity is obvious; less clear is the identity of the speaker when the remainder of the text reads ‘arise, make haste, my beloved, and come’ (Song of Songs 2: 10). However the text is to be read, the musical setting is extraordinary: for the phrase ‘fons signatus’ (‘a sealed well’), Gombert creates a sequential chain lasting fully ten bars, climaxing with the entry of four voices in rapid succession at the top of their range, on ‘surge, propera’ (‘arise, make haste’); the sequence is then reversed on ‘amica mea’ (‘my beloved’). In addition to the heavy incidence of dissonance, with many double and even triple suspensions, this unique piece of writing brings a particular intensity to this short motet.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007

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