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O bone et dulcissime Jesu a 6

6vv; NJE 21.9; the two additional voices come from a 1550s manuscript held in Munich
author of text
after a text by Saint Anselm; heavily adapted

The six-voice version of O bone et dulcissime Jesu (21.9) is found in a manuscript in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich, dating probably from the 1550s and containing half a dozen pieces from the beginning of the century with voices added. Clearly the two additional voices are not Josquin’s work; some doubt has also been cast on the original four-voice version. In The Josquin Companion, Ludwig Finscher relegated no fewer than twenty-six four-voice motets to a footnote in which he described them as ‘doubtful, to varying degrees, or spurious … judging primarily from the source situation and only secondarily for stylistic reasons’. Patrick Macey, however, has suggested that O bone et dulcissime Jesu may indeed be Josquin’s work, conceived during his time at the court of René of Anjou, in the late 1470s. The basis of this proposal is that the motet text is similar to a prayer of Saint Bernardino of Siena (1380-1444), deriving originally from a meditation of Saint Anselm (1033/4-1109). Bernardino had been René’s personal confessor during the latter’s short possession of the Kingdom of Naples (1438-1442), and René was a strong supporter of Bernardino’s canonization in 1450. Though attractive, especially given the difficulty of associating almost any of Josquin’s works with specific occasions (or often even to the nearest decade), this argument falters on the rather tenuous resemblance of Bernardino’s prayer as transmitted in many Books of Hours to the actual text of the motet. Certain other stylistic objections to Josquin’s authorship have been raised, such as the prevalence of imitation at the fourth and fifth—a rare though not unknown procedure as early as the 1470s—but none is conclusive. The four-voice original thus remains part of the official canon; with the addition of the two posthumous voices it becomes a very different and much more sumptuous work. In fact, the expansion to a six-part texture removes one of the generally accepted elements of Josquin’s style, namely its sparsity. The original features many sections of two-part writing, and is noteworthy for the extent to which these are not dovetailed as later became common, such that the phrases often feel quite discrete. Though the writer of the extra voices does not remove this sense altogether, it is in the nature of such textural expansion that the voices do overlap more than in the original; and in general the piece is far more mellifluous, particularly since so many of the chords now contain thirds where previously they did not, as well as there being more opportunity for expressive dissonance. The work is firmly rooted in D Dorian tonality, but one harmonic twist is especially noticeable: where the text discusses the possibility that the writer may be damned (part 2, from 1'41 to 1'52) the chord sequence d-a-G-F-d-g-E flat-d-B flat-E flat-B flat is heard, before a serene rising phrase returns us to the region of A minor, where in fact the piece ends.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2021


Josquin: Motets & Mass movements
Studio Master: CDA68321Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Part 1: O bone et dulcissime Jesu
Track 9 on CDA68321 [6'26]
Part 2: Si ergo commisi
Track 10 on CDA68321 [3'57]

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