The jewel in the crown of late-medieval English polyphony is undoubtedly the repertory of votive antiphons to be sung at the conclusion of Compline at the end of the day, and represented most lavishly through the music of the Eton Choirbook. Whilst Ludford was too young to feature in this great collection, we are fortunate for the survival of the Peterhouse Partbooks (Cambridge, University Library, Peterhouse MSS 471-74) which, despite missing a tenor book, enable the reconstruction of a number of Ludford’s Marian works. One of these, Ave Maria, ancilla Trinitatis
, is based on a prayer found in some fifteenth-century primers. Each line of text begins with the salutation ‘Ave Maria’, ending with a superlative, and supplemented at the very end with a personalized petition for Mary’s mediation. Ludford decorates certain apposite words with extended melismas and emphasizes the imploration of the text by varying vocal combinations for every two or three lines. In a sonic representation of the angelic host, Ludford first joins the full choral force at the text ‘angelorum’, introducing a cantus firmus also found in his Missa Inclina cor meum Deus
. In the context of the antiphon, the relevant plainsong fragment, ‘Inclina cor meum Deus: In testimonia tua’ (‘Incline my heart, O God, to your testimony’—a short ferial Responsory for Terce), appears in each of the three full passages; twice in the first and third, and once in the second.
from notes by Christian Wilson © 2018