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Missa Ecce quam bonum

author of text
Ordinary of the Mass

The Mass Ecce quam bonum is based on Clemens’s own motet: as is quite frequent at this time, the number of voices is reduced by one between motet and Mass, with the Kyrie, Gloria and Credo movements of the latter being in five parts. However, an extra voice is added from the Sanctus onwards. Many imitation Masses add one or more voices for the Agnus or the second Agnus invocation, but so early an expansion of texture is highly unusual. The added voice does not duplicate the lowest range, as in the motet, but the tenor, and forms a canon at the unison with the existing tenor voice. This technique is particularly effective in the Osanna, where the length of the phrases is at times the same as the delay between the two canonic voices, giving the impression of antiphony.

The motet sets Psalm 133, ‘Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is: brethren, to dwell together in unity!’ In it the psalmist constructs an extended simile between the life of a happy community and refreshing liquids: first the precious ointment running down Aaron’s beard, and subsequently dew falling upon the hill of Sion. The mention of Sion allows a return to the original theme of God’s benediction on those who lead a peaceful life. The imagery in this short but vivid text offers plenty of scope for the composer to create musical parallels, of which Clemens takes advantage in both motet and Mass. The ointment running down Aaron’s beard is illustrated with a sequential motif falling in thirds and employing cross-rhythms, which frequently recurs in the Mass, usually towards the end of sections such as the second Kyrie. A different falling motif is chosen for the dew of Hermon, this time descending by step. It has been observed also that the unison canon between the two tenor parts in the Sanctus and Agnus Dei reflects the opening of the text (Alejandro Planchart & Willem Elders, ‘Clemens non Papa, Jacobus’, in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Second Edition ed. S. Sadie, 29 vols. (London: Macmillan, 2001), vi, 29.).

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2004


Clemens: Missa Ecce quam bonum & other sacred music
SIGCD045Download only


Movement 1a: Kyrie
Track 3 on SIGCD045 [1'18] Download only
Movement 1b: Christe
Track 4 on SIGCD045 [1'03] Download only
Movement 1c: Kyrie
Track 5 on SIGCD045 [1'25] Download only
Movement 2a: Gloria
Track 6 on SIGCD045 [3'25] Download only
Movement 2b: Qui tollis peccata mundi
Track 7 on SIGCD045 [2'42] Download only
Movement 3a: Credo
Track 11 on SIGCD045 [3'55] Download only
Movement 3b: Et resurrexit
Track 12 on SIGCD045 [0'58] Download only
Movement 3c: Et iterum venturus est
Track 13 on SIGCD045 [3'07] Download only
Movement 4a: Sanctus
Track 16 on SIGCD045 [1'41] Download only
Movement 4b: Osanna
Track 17 on SIGCD045 [1'03] Download only
Movement 4c: Benedictus
Track 18 on SIGCD045 [1'35] Download only
Movement 4d: Osanna
Track 19 on SIGCD045 [1'05] Download only
Movement 5a: Agnus Dei I
Track 22 on SIGCD045 [3'02] Download only
Movement 5b: Agnus Dei II
Track 23 on SIGCD045 [3'18] Download only

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