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Motets - Josquin, Gombert, and Clemens non Papa

Choral Sem Presentation 9/21/12

Christopher Olsen

on 11 December 2013

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Transcript of Motets - Josquin, Gombert, and Clemens non Papa

By: Christopher Olsen
Motets - Josquin, Gombert,
and Clemens non Papa

Josquin Des Prez (c.1440 -1521) - "Des Prez" is a nickname

one of the finest and most influential composers in the history of Western music.
stylistic traits of his music, both in contrapuntal technique and in text-setting, gave the defining direction to the High Renaissance and with it the course of music history as a whole.
admired by Martin Luther as the greatest of composers, but his music was distributed throughout Europe and especially in Germany for decades after his death.
clear textures and text declamation which Josquin employed set the stage for the Counter-Reformation and composers such as Palestrina
Josquin's output displays a rare combination of innovation and accomplished technical mastery
retained for him a position as the most prominent composer of the early sixteenth century.
Pervasive imitation describes a situation in which shared material between voices determines the contrapuntal texture of a piece, and in Josquin's case, this usually meant interlocking canonic duets.
His Italian influence is frequently sought in the increasingly clear textures he employed, together with his new emphasis on homophony.
Josquin's Northern foundation is clearly seen in his mastery of contrapuntal textures in four, five and six voices, and especially in his canonic technique.
A few scholars have recently brought to light the theory that Obrecht was actually much more of a celebrity at the time than Josquin, refuting what scholars have been saying for centuries. However, Josquin’s fame did help him more in the end with his music printing friends in high places.

His employment status also suggests that he was still not any less famous than we thought before. Essentially a court musician, by 1504 he’d been in the service of several dukes, Cardinals, Popes and perhaps two kings of France.
Although modern taste for the mass cycle as a sort of proto-symphony has brought an emphasis on Josquin's music in this genre, his motets are clearly his most individual, expressive and masterful contributions.

The variety of expression they contain, together with their formal ingenuity make them sufficient by themselves to establish Josquin's posthumous reputation.
Josquin's motet style varied:

From: almost strictly homophonic settings with block chords and syllabic text declamation to highly ornate contrapuntal fantasias
To: the psalm settings which combined these extremes with the addition of rhetorical figures and text-painting that foreshadowed the later development of the madrigal.
Wrote many of his motets for four voices, an ensemble size which had become the compositional norm around 1500
He also was a considerable innovator in writing motets for five and six voices. No motets of more than six voices have been reliably attributed to Josquin.
Josquin frequently used imitation, especially paired imitation, in writing his motets, with sections akin to fugal expositions occurring on successive lines of the text he was setting. An example is his setting of Dominus regnavit (Psalm 93), for four voices; each of the lines of the psalm begins with a voice singing a new tune alone, quickly followed by entries of other three voices in imitation.
Almost all of Josquin's motets use some kind of compositional constraint on the process; they are not freely composed.
Some use a cantus firmus as a unifying device
some are canonic
some use a motto which repeats throughout
some use several of these methods.
The motets that use canon can be roughly divided into two groups:
those in which the canon is plainly designed to be heard and appreciated as such
a group in which a canon is present, but almost impossible to hear, and seemingly written to be appreciated by the eye more than the ear
His motets often use frequent imitative duets
to give his characteristic transparency.
A passage from the psalm motet Domine ne in furore (Psalm 37).
Three variants of a motive built on a major triad are introduced, each in paired imitation between two voices.
Petrucci (famous for music printing) rarely ever gave a composer more than one copy of their music. However Josquin was not only a friend but talented and famous, so he usually got 3 or more copies of his works. It pays to be famous.

Petrucci printed several cycles of Josquin’s motets calling them very plainly “Motetti A, Motetti B, Motetti C and so on”

Harmonices Musice Odhecaton, the first printing of polyphonic music ever, contains 96 (not 100 like the title suggests) pieces and several of them are by Josquin.
Planxit autem David may NOT have been written by Josquin! A Passiontide motet, its authorship has been challenged because it is untypical of his writing.
Miserere deus
In writing polyphonic settings of psalms, Josquin was a pioneer, and psalm settings form a large proportion of the motets of his later years. Few composers prior to Josquin had written polyphonic psalm settings. Some of Josquin's settings include the famous Miserere, written in Ferrara in 1503 or 1504 and most likely inspired by the recent execution of the reformist monk Girolamo Savonarola, Memor esto verbi tui, based on Psalm 119, and two settings of De profundis (Psalm 130), both of which are often considered to be among his most significant accomplishments.
In keeping with Duke Savonarola's dislike of polyphony and musical display, the "Miserere" is written in a style that is much different from the contrapuntal complexity, virtuosity, and ornamentation of works such as the five-part motet "Virgo salutiferi", which was probably written around the same time. The tenor part, which contains the repeating phrase "Miserere mei, Deus", was likely written to be sung by the Duke himself, who was a trained musician and often sang with the musicians in his chapel.
Nicolas Gombert
Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495 – c. 1560)
Franco-Flemish composer
One of the most famous and influential composers between Josquin des Prez and Palestrina
Best represents the fully developed, complex polyphonic style of the Renaissance period.
likely born around 1495 in southern Flanders (we don’t know for sure)
Gombert might have studied with Josquin
Gombert was employed by the emperor Charles V as a singer in his court chapel in 1526 and possibly as a composer as well
A document dated 1529 mentions Gombert as magister puerorum ("master of the boys") for the royal chapel.
He and the singers went with the emperor on his travels throughout his holdings, leaving records of their appearances in various cities of the empire.
In 1540 during the height of his career, he vanished from chapel records.
According to a contemporary, in 1540 Gombert was convicted of a crime involving a young boy in his care and was sentenced to hard labor in the galleys.
Exact duration of his galley stay is not known, but he was able to continue composing for at least part of the time. After several years, Gombert sent a letter and some musical works to a captain under the emperor. They made their way to the top and the legend is that Charles was so moved by these Magnificat settings that he let Gombert go early.
It is not known how long Gombert lived after his pardon or what positions, if any, he held; his career faded into relative obscurity after he was freed.
May have retired to Tournai, spending the final years of his life as canon there.
Bracketing dates for his probable death are 1556 and 1561
Musical Output
Gombert is perhaps the most representative composer of the generation between Josquin and Palestrina, especially in sacred music.
Brought the polyphonic style to its highest state of perfection; if imitation is a common device in Josquin, it is pervasive in Gombert.
Extended homophonic passages are rare in his sacred works, and he is particularly fond of imitation at very close time intervals
He preferred the lower voice ranges, and instead of the four voices which were usual at the time, he preferred larger groupings, such as five and six voice parts.
Gombert, unlike his predecessor and mentor, Josquin des Prez, used irregular numbers of voice entries and avoided precise divisions of phrases.
Syncopations and cross-accents are characteristic of his rhythmic idiom, and harmonically, Gombert's compositions stressed the traditional modal framework.
Musica ficta, a term that refers to chromatically altering pitches, was very prominent in his musical stylings.
Notable for its use of suspended dissonance
Dissonance he uses for expressive effect, for example as an expression of grief
Out of the ten masses that Gombert composed, nine survived complete.
Gombert's preferred form
the most influential part of his output
they show the greatest diversity of compositional technique.
His motets, alongside those of Adrian Willaert and Jacobus Clemens non Papa (who I’ll speak of later), stand out from the rest of the Flemish motet composers.
Familiar characteristics of motets of the preceding generation, such as ostinato, canon, cantus firmus, and double texts, are unusual in Gombert's style, except where he used aspects of the previous generation's style as an homage, such as in his motet in tribute to the death of Josquin.
His surviving works include 10 masses, over 160 motets, about 70 chansons, a madrigal, and a handful of instrumental pieces.
While most composers of the next generation did not continue to write vocal music using Gombert's method of pervasive imitation, they continued to use this contrapuntal texture in instrumental works.

Forms such as the canzona and ricercar are directly descended from the vocal style of Gombert; Baroque forms and processes such as the fugue are later descendants. Gombert's music represents one of the extremes of contrapuntal complexity ever attained in purely vocal music.
Gombert was one of the most renowned composers in Europe after the death of Josquin des Prez. We can see this by the wide distribution of his music, the use of his music as source material for compositions by others, and the singular attention that printers paid to him

Although highly admired by his contemporaries, the next generation of Franco-Flemish composers mostly wrote in a more simplified style. Part of this happened out of a reaction to the Council of Trent which wanted more clarity of the text, and another part responsible would be the contrapuntal idiom reaching an extreme and having nowhere else to go.
Media Vita - Motet for 6 voices
Texts for his motets
Gombert obtained his inspiration from scripture – such as the Psalms – as opposed to the liturgy of the Roman Catholic church. He was less attentive to textual placement and clarity than to the overall expressive sonority.

Form for his motets
Always conditioned by the character of the text
Motets based on responsories are always ABCB pattern
Many others are divided into two broad sections
Jacob Clemens non Papa
Jacobus Clemens non Papa (c. 1510 to 1515 – 1555 or 1556)
Flemish composer based for most of his life in Flanders
Prolific composer in many of the current styles, and was especially famous for his polyphonic settings of the psalms in Dutch known as the Souterliedekens.
Nothing is known of his early life, and even the details of the years of his artistic maturity are sketchy. There are several theories regarding the origin of the epithet "non Papa".
One holds that it was jokingly added by his publisher, Susato, to distinguish him from Pope Clement VII—"Jacob Clemens—but not the Pope."
Another states that it is to distinguish him from Jacobus Papa, a poet also from Ypres.
Details about his death are not known, but he probably died in 1555 or 1556. A 1558 text deploration on Clemens's death suggests that he met a violent end, though if true, the circumstances are not given.
His life and death dates are not officially known, but we do have a general span of his living years.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Clemens seems never to have traveled to Italy, with the result that Italian influence is absent in his music.

He only represents the northern European dialect of the Franco-Flemish style.

Clemens was one of the chief representatives along with Gombert of the generation between Josquin and Palestrina.

He was primarily a composer of sacred music. In fact, his musical output was roughly 80 percent sacred music, either liturgical or for private use.

Of his approximately 233 motets, only three contain secular texts, in the form of hymns of praise of music.
Considering that his career as a composer lasted for barely two decades, Clemens was an extremely prolific composer, writing:
15 masses, including 14 parody masses and a requiem mass
15 Magnificats
c. 233 motets
Just over 100 secular pieces, including 89 chansons (only 77 of which are considered authentic and are included in the complete edition of his works)
159 Souterliedekens, which are Dutch settings of the psalms, using popular song melodies as cantus firmus.

After his death, his works were distributed to Germany, France, Spain, and even among various circles in England. The influence of Clemens was especially prominent in Germany; Lassus in particular knew his music well and incorporated elements of his style.
Memorial year

This year being 2012, Clemens' supposed 500th anniversary is being celebrated in several of the towns where he is thought to have worked as a singer and composer.
How he wrote in his Masses and Motets

Clemens employed a consistent compositional style.
Counterpoint is largely note against note
Textures are dense and busy throughout, much motion
Pervasive imitation is the rule
Thought little use of strict canon
Text settings are often in burst of syllabic motion
Oh Mary, blossoming rose
Beautiful gate of heaven,
Bright stars,
Bugerna me, I bear,
Defend me, I encourage
Not to be conquered by the enemy.

You a light, beautiful, you are healing,
Thou art the true peace, the protection of you,
Smash enemies weapons
Aid falling.

O Maria, vernans rosa,
Porta coeli speciosa,
Clarior sideribus,
Me bugerna, me supporta,
Me defende, me conforta
Ne vincar ab hostibus.

Tu lux pulchra, tu medela,
Tu pax vera, tu tutela,
Inimici frange tela
Succurre cadentibus.

O Maria vernans rosa
Church choir or other applications

Josquin's works have been arranged into other formats, such as this hymn format that can be used as part of a service such as a gradual.
What to look for in a Josquin Motet

1. Mostly 4 voice parts, some 5, as many as 6
2. Dueling duets between parts are prevalent
3. Uses either Cantus Firmus, Canon, Motto, or all three
4. When Canon is used it is either extremely clear, or hidden.
5. Beginnings of text painting and emotive right, while still using some compositional constraint
What to look for in a Gombert Motet


2. Not a lot of homophonic passages

3. Broader range in voices, usually to the low end

4. Rhythmic syncopation and cross accents

5. Dissonance throughout, especially suspended
What to look for in a Clemens non Papa Motet

1. Consistent compositional style
2. Like Gombert, imitation is King
3. Counterpoint is largely note against note
4. Text is sung in bursts of syllabic motion
5. Sacred text in 99% of motets, 80% of all works
Josquin Des Prez
The lightness and short phrases of Italianate settings were to be balanced against the more melismatic and contrapuntal Northern style, and consequently Josquin perfected the technique of "pervasive imitation" to achieve a contrapuntally-based structure around short motives and interlocking phrases.
Performance Suggestions
- Voices and Instrumentation:
All three composers embraced the four voice, and expanded to the five and six voice settings. Because of the fame and respect of each of these men, settings larger than four became more prominent.
Minimum of three voices per part is suggested. Less is acceptable, but due to long lines and odd phrases for breathing, it's best to have more.
Can be done with larger choirs, though vocal styles should be considered (Revency Fredonia)
Instrument doubling is possible, make sure to match pitch classes with correct instruments. Fun option would be using close to period instruments (i.e. recorders, strings, lute or guitar)
- Age level appropriateness:
Like most pre-Baroque music, be careful of audience and ensemble alike. Educational value is good, and working on a single line to be expanded with imitation is a rewarding technique. However, use sparingly.
Outdoor is tough, indoor is much better
Spaces with good acoustics and reverb are advantageous to this style (can be treacherous if not respected)
Blume, Herausgegeben von Friedrich, 1933, Das Chorwerk, Heft 23, “In Principio”
Muller-Blattau, Joseph, 1964, Chor-Archiv, Musica Reservata Vol. 37 part II, “Ave Maria”
Thomas, Paul, 1968, A First Book of Motets, “Come, O Creator Spirit”
Sadie, Stanley, ed. 2001, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, MacMillan Publishers, Vol. 6 (Clemens non Papa)
Sadie, Stanley, ed. 2001, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, MacMillan Publishers, Vol. 10 (Gombert)
Sadie, Stanley, ed. 2001, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, MacMillan Publishers, Vol. 13 (Josquin)
Early Life
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