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Exsultet coniubilando
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Exsultet coniubilando must be a product of Mouton’s association with Leo X, since its text could scarcely refer to anyone else. According to Albert Dunning, this is the earliest ‘state motet’ to be composed in eight parts (the term derives from the title of Dunning’s 1970 book, Die Staatsmotette, which discusses all the then known pieces for royal, papal and non-liturgical commemorative occasions in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century). It boasts two different cantus firmi: one in the second tenor voice elaborates a hexachord, up and down in long notes (ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la; la-sol-fa-mi-re-ut). Curiously, the text assigned does not fit the number of notes: in the print of Mouton’s motets published by the French royal printers Le Roy and Ballard in 1555 (which despite the late date seems reasonably authoritative given its provenance, and in any case is the earliest surviving source) the voice is underlaid ‘Pastor ecclesiae Romanae, ora pro nobis’. At fourteen syllables this phrase cannot be sung to the twelve notes of the hexachord, and Le Roy and Ballard’s editor evidently realized this, placing the word ‘Romanae’ under the rests between the upward and downward statements of the scale. A slightly later source, the Thesaurus musicus of 1564, published in the Protestant city of Nuremberg by the firm of Berg and Neuber, substitutes ‘Christe’, for ‘Romanae’, changing the sense from ‘Shepherd of the Roman church, pray for us’, to ‘Shepherd of the church, O Christ, pray for us’. Since this word is not actually sung, this may be counted as one of the less significant theological distinctions of the sixteenth century.

The second cantus firmus clearly refers to a Pope: ‘The blessed Roman lived without sin’ (scarcely a true description of Leo X, but it might have been impolitic to point this out) ‘in the tabernacle of God’. The sumptuous eight-part texture together with archaic devices such as the use of a modus cum tempore mensuration in the first half mark this piece out as suitable for a ceremonial occasion. The unusual mensuration, which had largely disappeared by around 1475, indicates that the breve is arranged in a ternary relationship with the next higher note value, the long. Where longs still appeared in early sixteenth-century music, their value could usually be assumed to be twice that of a breve: the mensuration signs (functioning similarly to modern time signatures) more often concerned themselves with the shorter note values of breve, semibreve, and minim in which music was by this stage mostly written. Mouton handles this old-fashioned mensuration with considerable subtlety, switching the stress patterns continually between long and breve.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2012

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