Ave caelorum domina
is the title in Petrucci’s Motetti C
(1504) of a piece which in its other source, a Vatican manuscript, begins ‘Ave cuius conceptio’ (‘Hail, you whose [immaculate] conception’). The text of the two versions is largely the same apart from its opening, and it would appear that the latter is the original, which was amended in the Petrucci print. Possibly the reason for this would have been the fact that Petrucci’s editor, Petrus Castellanus, was a Dominican, and this order did not at that time accept the validity of the Immaculate Conception. Whatever the reason for the discrepancy, the Petrucci version would have circulated in a way that the manuscript did not, and has therefore been selected for recording here. Elements of the text will be familiar from Josquin Des Prez’s famous Ave Maria … virgo serena
, of which the present text is a part. Certain aspects of the musical style, also, are shared with Josquin, notably the tendency towards pair imitation (two voices in duet followed by the same cell repeated by the other two voices at the upper or lower octave). Brumel, however, as is usually the case, is less Apollonian than his great contemporary. The opening duet lasts only two bars before the altus and bassus enter on the third word, creating an immediate sense of supplication towards the Blessed Virgin. The remainder of the first stanza is largely contrapuntal, turning towards the secondary modal centre of B flat at the altus/bassus entry on ‘Nova reples’. Brumel alters the texture at stanza 2 (‘Ave cuius nativitas’—‘Hail, whose birth’) with homophony followed by varied duets. Mary’s ‘pious humility’ is evoked in stanza 3 by triple time, reducing to almost complete stillness at ‘Cuius annuntiatio’ (‘whose annunciation’). The final section is introduced with pair imitation, moving to quasi-homophony (a chordal texture but with some variety of rhythm) at the transition into the sixth stanza, which underlines the seriousness of the poem’s Mariology with slow chords, before the final Amen injects a little more rhythmic vitality.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2014