Francisco Guerrero’s five-voice Marian motet Ave virgo sanctissima
was written in the 1560s. The Iberian fervour of Spanish Renaissance music is unmistakeable, and Guerrero ruled musical hearts and minds in late-sixteenth-century Seville. Ave virgo sanctissima
employs a canon at the unison between the two treble parts, a feature which drives the music forward with each successive entry of the canonic voices. The masterstroke is Guerrero’s imitative use of the opening four notes of the solemn-tone Salve regina
chant, which is triggered by the otherwise unrelated appearance of the word ‘Salve’. In the canonic upper voices the motif is heard three times, with increasing urgency, on the first, second, and fifth degrees of the mode.
from notes by Jeremy Summerly © 2013