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Stabat mater a 6

6vv; NJE 25.9; the tenor cantus firmus derives from Gilles Binchois' Comme femme desconfortée; the additional soprano part is found in partbooks published in 1564 and 1589 in the Czech town of Rokycany
author of text

The si placet voice added to Josquin’s well-known and widely circulated Stabat mater (25.9) is the latest music included on this recording, dating from at least the late sixteenth century, and perhaps even the early seventeenth. It is found as a manuscript addition to one of a pair of partbooks (discantus and sexta pars) in the Czech town of Rokycany, bound in with printed music published in 1564 and (in the discantus book) 1586. The text was Protestantized (e.g. ‘Christe verbum’ to begin the secunda pars instead of ‘Eia mater’) and is no doubt derived from the version published in 1559 by Berg and Neuber of Nuremberg. Situated in the soprano range, the extra part contributes further to the brightness of texture that is a noted feature of Josquin’s Stabat mater setting. The original Marian poem (which we have re-instated in the sexta pars to match the other voices) dates from the thirteenth century, though no firm authorship has been established. Rather than using a version of the plainsong sequence melody as a cantus firmus, Josquin structures his motet around the tenor of Comme femme desconfortée, a chanson by Gilles Binchois (c1400-1460), the note values of which he augments quadruply, so that a minim of the original becomes a breve in the motet. The tenor has no rests, and with the augmentation its notes can last up to about twelve seconds (e.g. the fifth tenor note from 0'18 to 0'30). Josquin of course can harmonize these held notes in multiple ways—F, B flat, and d chords, in this instance (capitals denote major chords, lowercase minor)—but nevertheless such a constant and slow-moving presence lends the piece an extraordinary stillness. The only other comparably early polyphonic Stabat mater from Continental Europe—that by Gaspar van Weerbeke (c1445-after 1516), which is found immediately following Josquin’s setting in one of the latter’s earliest sources, the Chigi Codex (Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Chigi C VIII 234)—is also a five-voice setting centred on a tenor which is not the sequence melody, namely the Marian plainsong Vidi speciosam sicut columbam (‘I saw her, beautiful as a dove’; modern version in Antiphonale monasticum, iii, 290). Weerbeke’s tenor is heard for only about half of the piece’s duration, however, entering well after the free voices in the normal manner for a tenor motet. As Fallows notes, Josquin’s consistently full texture must therefore be seen as an initial compositional decision; and Milsom observes that ‘the simplicity, solemnity, “whiteness” of the music is startling, and strikingly appropriate for the context’. Fallows dates the piece conjecturally to 1495-1500, and Barbara Haggh-Huglo has proposed that it may have been written for the Office of the Seven Sorrows of Mary, since it is found in a Brussels manuscript (Bibliothèque royale, MS 215-6, copied in the same scriptorium as the Chigi Codex) alongside plainchant newly composed for that occasion.

from notes by Stephen Rice © 2021


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


Part 1: Stabat mater dolorosa
Track 7 on CDA68321 [4'20]
Part 2: Eia mater, fons amoris
Track 8 on CDA68321 [4'40]

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