O iubar, nostrae specimen salutis
was published in Willaert’s Hymnorum musica
(Venice, 1542). As the subtitle of this book indicates, the Hymns are arranged in accordance with the church calendar (‘secundum ordinem romanae ecclesiae’). It is thus rather surprising that the collection includes a Hymn for the Holy Shroud. Interestingly, the publication of O iubar
took place only a decade after the Shroud had been seriously damaged by a fire in the Sainte Chapelle of Chambéry. After its repair by the Poor Clare nuns, the Shroud was taken to Italy for exhibitions in Turin, Milan and Vercelli. It is possible that Willaert composed the piece for one of those occasions. Although most of the Hymns in the collection are composed alternatim—one stanza being sung in plainsong, the next polyphonically and so on—O iubar is polyphonic throughout. Willaert creates variety by means of the number of voices—from a bicinium (third strophe) to six voices in the final strophe—and the treatment of the pre-existing melody: it can be cited literally in long note values, paraphrased or treated as a canon.
from notes by Katelijne Schiltz © 2010