The motet Beata es, Maria
is based on a lauda spirituale, the genre which flourished in Italy from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries and which was often sung by members of religious confraternities, outside the formal liturgy. As the musicologist Jennifer Bloxam has noted, Brumel’s setting is also related to two earlier works, by Loyset Compère (c1445–1518) and Jacob Obrecht (1457/8–1505). The latter was published in the same volume as Brumel’s (Motetti libro quarto
, 1505) by the earliest printer of polyphony, Ottaviano Petrucci. Both begin with a presentation of the lauda melody in the tenor voice and in triple time, and both proceed to words from the litany ‘O Christe, audi nos’. Brumel is more systematic than Obrecht in returning to the litany text as a form of refrain, though all three composers repeat the text ‘O Christe, audi nos’ to complete the motet. As Bloxam aptly remarks, Brumel’s Beata es, Maria
is ‘a consummate synthesis of Franco-Flemish contrapuntal craft with the light, tuneful, rhythmically vivacious, vertically oriented Italian style of the polyphonic lauda’. Particularly effective are the contrasting duets between upper and lower voices.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2014