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The motet is structured around a chant tenor, ‘Plangent eum’ (‘They lament for him’), which is heard three times: once in the prima pars, beginning after twenty-four breves, as the upper voices come in with the third poetic line, ‘Langueo nec quisquam’ (2'06), and twice in the secunda, in ever-shorter note values. Around the tenor are five free voices, though three of the work’s seventeen sources lack the sexta vox, which differs in style from the other four, and is highly virtuosic with a two-octave range. The piece can be, and indeed is more often than not, performed a 5. As ever with Josquin, controversy rages as to the authenticity of this sexta vox, with John Milsom in The Josquin Companion asserting that it is ‘generally rejected as being uncharacteristic of Josquin’s style’, and Jaap van Benthem (in Josquin and the Sublime) stating that it is inauthentic and ‘seriously affects the setting’s subtle counterpoint and its balance of proportions’. Willem Elders, on the other hand (in Josquin Des Prez and his musical legacy), believes that ‘most scholars agree that it stems from the hand of Josquin himself’. Bonnie Blackburn in her NJE edition considers three possibilities: that Josquin added the sexta vox after writing the first five; that someone else wrote it; or that the motet was Josquin’s six-voice conception all along. The fact that two of the sources lacking it (the Brussels and London manuscripts) are among the earliest lends weight to the first hypothesis, though the source situation more generally does not suggest a separate line of transmission of an earlier version a 5. David Fallows makes the best case in its favour: describing the other five voices as constituting ‘a motet of the most polished and classical design’, he suggests that ‘Josquin quickly saw that he needed to throw a diagonal band across the structure … as though he drafted it as a work in five voices and then realised that it was just a touch too anodyne’.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2021