Schoendorff’s Missa Usquequo Domine
in six voices has been preserved, along with others by such imperial musicians as Philippe de Monte, Carl Luython, Giorgi Flori and Jacob Regnart, in a manuscript compiled in the late sixteenth century for St James’s church in Kuttenberg (Kutná Hora, east of Prague). Philippe de Monte’s motet contains all the ingredients we find in the Mass. The melodic material gradually breaks free from its model, but the six-voice texture is maintained pretty much throughout. The use of six voices became widespread at this time, because this made it possible to double parts and above all to vary the sound by combining them in pairs, in threes, two against four, and so on, thus creating a variety of planes of sound which one might compare to the innovations of perspective in painting (‘Christe eleison’). Another advantage of this technique is that it enables the composer, by giving each group of voices a different part of a phrase, to get through the text more quickly and thus to shorten the piece. This is the principle of dovetailing normally applied in the Gloria and Credo of a Missa brevis
. Homophony is used for expressive purposes (in the motet ‘dolorem in corde meo’, ‘Respice’, ‘exaudi me’; in the Mass ‘suscipe deprecationem’, ‘Jesum Christum’, ‘per quem omnia facta sunt’), and when all the voices join forces it is to underline an important point in the text (‘Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam’). We also encounter, as in the motet (at ‘exsultabunt’ and ‘Cantabo’), melismas on ‘Sanctus’ and ‘in nomine’, as well as rhythmic shifts from duple to faster triple time (at ‘Exsultabit cor meum’ in the motet), a device traditionally reserved for the expression of joy or divine perfection: ‘in gloria Dei Patris’.
from notes by Bénédicte Even-Lassmann © 2011
English: Charles Johnston