Tag Archives: Sacred Music

Alexander Agricola: Magnificat

As we continue our journey through the sacred polyphony of the 15th Century, we feature today another piece by Alexander Agricola, his Magnificat which is a composition combining Plainchant and Polyphony in the style of the Burgundian School with orchestral accompaniment in this performance.

Mircologus 2 shares some commentary on Agricola’s style on his YouTube channel:

Agricola’s music was first transmitted in quantity in the 1490s. His most characteristic works are his songs and secular instrumental pieces, with over 80 surviving. They are overwhelmingly in three parts, and frequently quote songs by other composers, often in oblique fashion. Agricola’s series of instrumental variations on De tous biens plaine is a particularly conspicuous example of his flair for variety and ornamental figuration. Most of Agricola’s motets, of which he wrote over two dozen, are in a compact and straightforward style. The succinct three-voice Si dedero was the most-copied work of its generation, as well as a popular model for other settings. Agricola’s stature was consummated with Petrucci’s publication of a dedicated volume of his masses in 1504, and it is in his eight mass cycles that Agricola’s unusual sense for counterpoint shows most clearly. His Missa In minen sin is one of the largest cycles of the era, a virtual encyclopedia of motivic variation. Agricola did not show the concern for text championed by Josquin, nor the feel for open textures pioneered by Obrecht. His counterpoint is extremely dense, with a fantastical feeling developing upon the “irrationality” of Ockeghem’s designs. Agricola’s larger settings are consequently some of the most intricate and inventive of the era, combining an abundance of contrapuntal ideas with a seemingly intentional arbitrariness into a web of shifting musical connections.

Every day at 5 P. M. Rome time, FromRome.Info features a selection of sacred music by Catholic Composers throughout the ages, to edify our readers and expand their knowledge of the riches and treasures of Catholic liturgico-musical tradition.

Antoine Busnois: Anthoni usque limina

As we continue to peruse the sacred repertoire of the 15th century Catholic composer, Antoine Busnois, we feature today his Antiphonal praising Saint Anthony of the Desert, for whom there was an explosion of devotion in the 14th century, when, at Avignon, during the outbreak of a plague of shingles, his relics borne in procession caused the immediate cure of hundreds of sick.

In response, the Avignon pope founded an Order of Saint Anthony, which was like a third order, to which anyone could subscribe. Its duty was to care for the sick by establishing hospices for the ill, outside of the city limits and caring for the sick there, for free. It was the continuation of a long tradition in the Church of such hospitals, dating back from at least the 8th century at Constantinople.

This is the English translation of the Antiphon which is heard here, in this piece:

Anthony, calles to the limits
of the earth and sea
and even further,
by God’s provision,
since you have defeated
demonic attacks
with manly bravery,
hear the choir
singin your deeds
with sweet song.

Save this choir,
with your help,
from the cesspool of hell,
so that, after this vale of tears,
Satan’s fire scorches us not.

So strong was the devotion to this Saint for the cure of shingles, that the disease is still known in many places as Saint Anthony’s fire. And if the use of bells, as is done in this performance, is according to Busnois’ text, then the Antiphon was perhaps used in processions of the Saint relics, as an invocation to the Saint, by those seeking his favor.

John Dunstaple: Sancta Maria

As we continue our journey through the Sacred Music of the 15th Century, we feature today a piece from the repertoire of John Dunstaple. Born around 1390 A.D., he entered the service of John of Lancaster, the first Duke of Bedford, and was probably part of his court, when the latter served a Regent of France, for the English Monarch, from 1423 to 1429. It was probably in France that he acquired the style he used in his sacred polyphony. He was one of the three most famous Catholic composers of the 15th Century.

Today, we begin with his Sancta Maria, non est tibi similis, which is an adaptation of the verses also used in the Tota Pulchra Est. Very influential in his century in the British Isles, one can hear the origins of the musical style of English Plainchant in seed, in this piece.

Here is the Libretto for the Antiphon:

Sancta Maria, non est tibi similis
orta in mundo in mulieribu
s
Florens ut rosa, flagrans sicut lilium,
ora pronobis, sancta Dei genitrix.

Guillaume du Fay: Missa L’Homme Armé

https://youtu.be/HsXfjZeIlKc

We conclude today our perusal of the sacred repertoire of Guillaume du Fay, canon and composer of sacred polyphony at Cambrai throughout most of the 15th Century. Here we featured his Missa L’Homme Armé.

FromRome.Info features at 5 pm each day, a selection of Sacrd Music from the treasury of Catholic History, to educate its readers in the beauty and grace which has characterized sacred music and the rites of the Catholic Church throughout the ages.

Guillaume de Machaut: Messe de Nostre Dame

As we continue our perusal of Sacred Music, we turn to Guillaume de Machaut, the first known composer to write music for the entire Ordinary of the Mass. In this piece, entitled, Messe de Nostre Dame, he has dedicated his polyphonic composition with intrumental obbligato to Our Lady.

This mass was written during the reign of Pope Urban V, when Charles V was King of France.

It’s similarities with Gregorian Chant are undeniable, but clearly he has incorporated the style of singing for secular pieces into his work. This Mass was written before 1365 A.D., that is, just a few years after the Black Death had ravaged the continent and killed more than a third of the population.  This might explain why he has a secular style of singing in this piece, because the monasteries had been emptied of choir monks. Read more about this mass, here.

FromRome.Info features a differing piece of Sacred Music from the treasure of Catholic History, each day at 5 P.M., Rome time, to edify our readers in the wonders and beauty of Catholic music throughout the ages.

Josquin des Prés: Stabat Mater

This week as we peruse the repertoire of Josquin des Prés, one of the great polyphonic composers for voice at the turn of the 16th century, we feature one of his great Marian masterpieces.

In this musical composition of Bl. Thomas of Celano, O.Min., Marian Hymn for Lent, Stabat Mater, Josquin des Prés shows what polyphony can do to express the sorrows of Our Lady during the Passion of Our Lord. This Hymn was sung both during the Mass and the Divine Office in ancient times.

These posts on Sacred Music will appear daily at 5 pm Rome time and at 11 AM New York City time, or at 3 AM Sydney, Australia, time.