Josquin Desprez: Ave Maria by wK0S14F6


									Josquin Desprez: Ave Maria . . . virgo serena
       Josquin Despres (c. 1440-1521) was acknowledged by his contemporaries as the most
accomplished composer of his time. Martin Luther proclaimed that, “Josquin is a master of
notes, which must express what he desires; on the other hand, other choral composers must do
what the notes dictate.” Although very little is known about Josquin’s early life in the lowland
region of northern France, he most likely received his musical training through his service as a
singer at the chapel of the Milan cathedral in Italy. His career was spent as a composer attached
to various churches in northern Italy and France, and most of his compositions are sacred, either
settings of the mass or motets, sacred compositions based on Latin poetry suitable for inclusion
in a church setting.
       Josquin's four-voice motet Ave Maria...virgo serena (1502) is an outstanding Renaissance
choral work. This Latin prayer to the Virgin is set to delicate and serene music. Josquin
connected the composition to music already existing within the church by adapting the melody
for the opening phrases from a Gregorian chant, a technique known as parody. The rest of the
motet was not based on a chant melody.

Listening Tips:
       Following the predominant practice of the time, the setting of Ave Maria is a cappella, a
term now taken to mean that only voices are used but derived from its literal meaning, “as it is in
the chapel.” The opening uses polyphonic imitation, in which each voice sings the same melody
in succession. In this style, the voices often continue to add secondary melodies to accompany
the following voice entries as at the text “dominus tecum.” In addition to the imitation among
individual voices, imitation occurs between pairs of voices. Duets between the high voices are
imitated by the two lower voices at the text “Ave, cuius conceptio.” All four voices participate
in singing the phrase “virgo serena,” creating a skillful closing punctuation to this musical
       Throughout this section of the motet, as well as in the rest of the piece not heard in this
excerpt, Josquin skillfully varies the textures, using the contrast between two, three, or four
voices to create distinct musical sections. Whereas the works of composers of polyphonic music
before Josquin mainly relied upon the processes of polyphonic composition to spin out their
works, Josquin’s use of contrast signifies a more modern approach to creating musical form.
Listening Guide:
00:00      Ave Maria,                     Hail Mary,
00:14      gratia plena                   full of grace
00:32      dominus tecum,                 the Lord is with thee,
00:49      virgo serena.                  serene Virgin.
01:02       Ave, cuius conceptio, . . .   Hail, whose conception, . . .
01:20      End of excerpt
Adrian Willaert: Agnus Dei
        Adrian Willaert (1490-1562) was one of a group of composers today known as the
Franco-Flemish school, who brought a capella church music to its highest form in the
renaissance. Like many composers of his day, Willaert was born in the area today comprising
Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands. After studying in Paris, he moved to Italy where he held
positions in courts in Rome and Ferarra before becoming the maestro di capella of the basilica of
San Marco in Venice. He was the first Franco-Flemish composer to obtain a major position in
Venice, and under his leadership San Marco became the most respected chapel in Europe. In
high renaissance polyphony, the craft of the composer is demonstrated in the complex
interweaving of melodies such that each voice has a distinctive part yet all agree with each other
in the harmony. Such artful compositions eventually came under attack by the church during the
counter-reformation for unintelligibility of text. In the words of bishop Cirillo Franco,
“[composers of our time] have put all their industry into the composition of [polyphony] so that
while one voice says “Sanctus,” another says “Saboath,” still another “Gloria tua,” with howling,
bellowing, and stammering, so that they nearly resemble cats in January than flowers in May.”

Listening Tips:
        The seamless texture of high renaissance polyphony is evident in this excerpt. Note that
Bishop Franco’s criticism is borne out in the difficulty in deciphering the text.

Listening Guide:
00:00             Agnus Dei
00:33             qui tollis peccata mundi
Thomas Weelkes: As Vesta Was Descending
       Throughout the 16th-century, Italian composers became increasingly attracted to a secular
genre called the madrigal. In this genre, an emotionally expressive poem, often dealing with
love, was set to vocal music that attempted to musically illustrate the words or their emotional
content through a technique known as word painting. Madrigals were the musical counterpart of
the literature and visual arts of humanistic movement. Members of the courts and other upper
class citizens performed madrigals for each other as entertainment, sometimes without any
audience other than the performers. The popularity of madrigals in Italy, and the resulting
translation and publication of a number of them in England, resulted in the rise of a school of
English madrigal composers. Among these composers was Thomas Weelkes (1576-1623), who
served as the organist at Chichester Cathedral until his dismissal from his post on grounds of
being a habitual common drunkard and a notorious swearer and blasphemer.
       As Vesta Was Descending comes from The Triumphes of Oriana (1601), an anthology of
English madrigals written to honor Queen Elizabeth, referred to as Oriana in the poem. (Note the
reference in Vesta to the “maiden queen.”) Although the Italian version of word painting often
served the purpose of amplifying the emotional content of the text, English composers wrote
music similar to that in Vesta, in which the music attempts to illustrate individual words
especially those that indicated number or direction. The variety in a music setting such as Vesta
produced a musical composition requiring skill to perform and pleasing to the performers.

Listening Tips:
       As Vesta Was Descending has the light mood typical of English madrigals. Word painting
is plentiful, e.g., the word “descending” is sung to downward scales and “ascending” to upward
ones. When Vesta's attendants run down the hill in twos, threes, and larger groups, the setting is
for two voices, then three voices, then six voices. A solo voice proclaims that the goddess is left
“all alone.” In the extended concluding section, “Long live fair Oriana,” a joyous phrase is
imitated among the voices. In the bass this phrase is sung in long notes, with the longest note on
the word long. The length of time dedicated to this proclamation, one third of the composition, is
indicative of the ultimate purpose of the composition, to flatter the Queen.
Listening Guide:
00:00       As Vesta was from Latmos hill           Descending scales on “descending”
00:15       she spied a maiden queen the same       Ascending scales on “ascending”
00:38       attended on by all the shepherds        Melody gently undulates, neither ascending
            swain,                                  nor descending.
00:58       to whom Diana's darlings came           Rapid imitative descending figures on
            running down amain.                     running down
01:25       Two, three then solo voice              Two voices, three voices, and then all voices
            First two by two, then three by three
01:36       leaving their goddess all alone,        solo voice
            hasted thither,
01:51       and mingling with the shepherds of      All voices in delicate polyphony
            her train with mirthful tunes her
            presence entertain.
02:15       Then sang the shepherds and             All voices unite to introduce the final
            nymphs of Diana,                        proclamation
02:29       Long live fair Oriana!                  Brief, joyful phrase imitated among voices
                                                    is repeated over and over
03:40 End
Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Fugue in G minor, (“Little Fugue”)
       Although Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)is today recognized as a master of baroque
composition. He composed in all contemporary genres except opera, an omission in his oeuvre
that was certainly a result of his twenty-seven year appointment as the music director for the
major churches in Leipzig, Germany, and the tension between the church and the secular opera
establishment. One of Bach's best-known organ pieces is the Little Fugue in G Minor
(composed about 1709), so called to differentiate it from another, longer fugue in G minor.
Mastering the very strict compositional form of the fugue, based upon the earlier imitative vocal
polyphony of the renaissance, was thought to be one of the highest achievements of a baroque
composer. In this form a single melody, the subject, is the basis of all the following music in the
composition. Bach’s command of this compositional genre was so great that he was called upon
to improvise a fugue given to him in 1744 by Frederick the Great. Bach later based the
composition of the Musical Offering , a virtual encyclopedia of polyphonic forms, on the royal
theme. The investigation of musical construction dominated Bach’s last decade, during which his
membership in the learned Society of Musical Sciences where Bach and his fellow composers
sought the perfect polyphonic musical materials from which endless compositions could be
Listening Tips:
       In a fugue, each melody is called a voice and uses the designations from vocal music
from highest to lowest of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. Each of the fugue’s four voices presents
the subject in turn starting with the top voice and progressing to the lower voices, until it reaches
the bass, where the organist’s feet on the pedal keyboard play it. When the subject appears the
second time, the first voice proceeds to the counter-subject, a melody that accompanies the
subject balancing its melodic motion and harmonic content. After each opening section, the
subject appears five more times, each time preceded by an episode, a period in which the entire
subject is not played. The first episode uses both new material and a melodic idea from the
countersubject. Though the fugue is in minor, it ends with a major chord, a frequent practice in
the Baroque period--major chords were thought to be more conclusive than minor chords.
Listening Guide:
00:00         Subject in soprano voice alone, minor key
00:18         Subject in alto, countersubject in running notes in soprano
00:42         Subject in tenor, countersubject above it; brief episode follows
01:01         Subject in bass (pedals), countersubject in tenor
01:17         Brief episode
01:28         Subject begins in tenor, continues in soprano
01:48         Brief episode, running notes in a downward sequence
01:56         Subject in alto, major key; countersubject in soprano
02:13         Episode in major, upward leaps and running notes
02:25         Subject in bass (pedals), major key, countersubject and long trill above it
02:42         Longer episode
03:00         Subject in soprano, minor key, countersubject below it.
03:16         Extended episode
03:47         Subject in bass (pedals), countersubject in soprano. Fugue ends with major
04:12         End
George Frideric Handel: Messiah, Ev'ry Valley Shall be Exalted
       George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) began his career in his native Germany as a
musician as an organist and violinist. After composing his first operas in the early 1700s, he went
to Italy, spending three years composing and studying opera in Florence, Rome, Naples and
Venice. In the 1710s, he relocated permanently in London where he became a successful
composer and presenter of Italian-style operas. He began composing oratorios in the 1730s as an
alternative to opera, which could not be produced during the season of Lent. Besides being based
on a sacred story, oratorios did not involve stage acting but were rather presented in concert, a
more austere performance style appropriate for the season of abstinence. After the premiere of
Messiah in 1742 in Dublin, Handel abandoned opera, which had become unprofitable, and for
most of the remainder of his life composed and presented oratorios. At these performances he
usually played a concerto on the organ during the intermission.
       Handel composed Messiah in a little over three weeks in 1741, declaring upon its
completion, “I do believe I have seen all of Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” In
order to fit a larger than normal audience at the premiere, ladies were advised to not wear hoops
and gentlemen to leave their swords at home. The work was an immediate success despite
controversies surrounding his use of theatrical singers to present a work with a sacred text.

Listening Tips:
       Like opera, oratorios consist of arias (expressive songs), recitatives (sections of sung
dialog), and choruses. Except for the subject matter, the musical style of arias and recitatives
from Handel’s oratorios is virtually indistinguishable from the style of his operas. His oratorio
choruses are unlike anything in his operas. As in many baroque arias, Ev'ry Valley Shall Be
Exalted opens and closes with an instrumental section. Throughout the piece, the orchestra both
accompanies and alternates sections with the voice. This aria is striking in its vivid word
painting, a renaissance technique still used by certain baroque composers in Handel’s time. In
addition, the ornamental style of singing, prominent on the text “exalted,” is a musical
counterpart of the ornate style in the visual and architectural arts of this period. The virtuosic
abilities of the singer, both in the technical aspects and expressive aspects of vocal production,
are amply demonstrated in the final sung section, labeled cadenza.
Listening Guide:
00:00         Instrumental Introduction             Orchestral section. Phrases are repeated at
                                                    differing dynamic levels.
00:21         Ev'ry valley shall be exalted.        Word painting: Ascending rapid notes on
00:55         And ev'ry mountain and hill made      Word painting: High tone on “mountain”;
              low,                                  Low tone on “low”
01:01         The crooked straight, and the rough   Word painting: Wavy melody on
              places plain.                         “crooked”; smooth melody on “plain”
01:41         Ev'ry valley shall be exalted, and    Word painting on “exalted,” “mountain,”
              ev'ry mountain and hill made low,     “low,” “crooked,” and “plain”
              the crooked straight, and the rough
              places plain.
02:50         Cadenza: The crooked straight, and    Slow, ornamented vocal section
              the rough places plain.
03:08         Instrumental introduction repeated

03:30         End
Antonio Vivaldi: La Primavera, Movement I
       In 1703, Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741), already well known as a violinist, secured the
position as maestro di concerto at the Ospedale della Pietà, one of four Venetian institutions for
the care and musical training of orphaned girls. In his solo career, he had at times been criticized
for having too great a command of his instrument, and “being of a volatile disposition, having
too much mercury in his constitution.” His new position at the Ospedale provided him with
performing ensembles and audiences eager for his compositions. While at the institution, he
composed 500 concertos, forty-nine operas for the Venetian opera houses, and many other
works. The instrumental concerto style of Vivaldi was the result of a century of development
and experimentation on the principle of concertto, or concerted music, in which contrasting
sections are placed side by side in a single piece of music. Early concerti often contrasted solo,
choral, and instrumental sections, as seen in the compositions of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli,
organists at the Church of St. Mark in Venice from 1566 to 1612. The unusual physical design of
St. Mark’s, featuring multiple choir lofts, was especially conducive to sectional contrasts in
dynamics, instrumentation, and spatial separation. The principle of contrast and unification is the
primary feature of the later baroque concerto in which an instrument or small group of
instruments is contrasted with the orchestra.
Listening Tips:
       La Primavera (“Spring”) is a concerto that is also an early example of program music,
music that references external objects or concepts. Vivaldi clearly indicated his references by
writing the phrases of a poem in the musical score. (Those references are included in the
listening guide below.) In addition, the music is structured by contrasting sections for the
orchestra and the violin soloist, who is accompanied by the orchestra. This movement opens with
an energetic orchestral section called a ritornello. Each of the ritornello’s two phrases is played
loudly and then repeated softly in the terraced dynamics typical of baroque music. The pictorial
passages in the solo sections of this movement provide contrasts between returns of the ritornello
theme and contain tone painting, in which Vivaldi attempts to imitate the sound of natural
objects: birds, a stream, a storm. Birdsongs are imitated by high trills and repeated notes played
by violins. Murmuring streams are suggested by soft running notes. Rapid loud scales and
chordal figures represent thunder and lightning.
Listening Guide:
00:00         Ritornello opening phrase: loud        Spring has come,
              and soft
00:14         Ritornello closing phrase: loud and
00:32         High repeated notes and trills         And joyfully, the birds greet it with a
                                                     happy song.
01:06         Ritornello closing phrase
01:14         Running notes below sustained          And the streams, fanned by gentle breezes,
              tones in violins.                      flow along with a sweet murmur.
01:38         Ritornello closing phrase
01:46         Upward rushing scales introduce        Covering the sky with a black cloak,
              high solo violin, brilliant virtuoso   thunder and lightening come to announce
              passages answered by low strings       the season.
02:15         Ritornello closing phrase
02:23         High repeated notes and trills         When these have quieted down, the little
                                                     birds return to their enchanting song.
02:43         Ritornello, varied
02:55         Solo violin, running notes
03:11         Ritornello closing phrase
03:32         End

To top