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Infelix ego

author of text
after Psalm 50

The Este family and Duke Ercole I in particular were supporters of the Ferrara-born radical preacher and sometime ruler of Florence, Girolamo Savonarola. The Duke wrote several letters to Savonarola in 1495, as well as enacting some religious reforms in Ferrara which echoed those in Savonarola’s Florence. However, Savonarola’s power rapidly waned and in May 1498 he was tortured, hanged and burned by a mob in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria. A gifted orator, he penned two texts from prison as he awaited his fate. The first, Infelix ego, is a meditation on Psalm 50 and was published in Ferrara later that year, inspiring Josquin’s famous Miserere mei, Deus.

Savonarolan texts were very important to the Este court and they continued to be set by a series of composers with links to Ferrara and the Este family. The first to set Infelix ego was Adrian Willaert, another Oltremontani composer, famous for his long career as maestro di cappella at St Mark’s, Venice. Between 1515 and his appointment at San Marco in 1527, Willaert was in the employ of various members of the Este family. Looking back to Josquin’s Miserere, Willaert’s Infelix ego uses a descending and ascending cantus firmus of Miserere mei, Deus high in the texture, with the words of Psalm 50 echoing in and out of focus and culminating as the other five voices join the final statement.

from notes by Guy James © 2021


Josquin's legacy
CDA68379 Available Friday 29 October 2021


Part 1: Infelix ego
Track 18 on CDA68379 [4'30] Available Friday 29 October 2021
Part 2: Ad te igitur
Track 19 on CDA68379 [3'41] Available Friday 29 October 2021

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