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Tudor Choir opens EMG’s 33rd International Series

October 27, 2009


The Tudor Choir

The Tudor Choir

The Tudor Choir opens EMG’s 33rd season this weekend, Saturday, October 31 at 8PM at Town Hall with an inspired program of Flemish Polyphony (scroll down for the complete program and program notes). Click on this link to a read a concert preview article on our blog and also be sure to listen to an audio interview on EMG’s website.


The Program

Salve regina                                                                 Jacob Obrecht

Ego flos campi                                                            Jacob Clemens non Papa

Missa Ego flos campi                                                Jacob Vaet



Lugebat David Absalon                                            Nicolas Gombert


Credo                                                                              Nicolas Gombert

Pater peccavi                                                               Jacob Clemens non Papa

Missa Ego flos campi                                               Jacob Vaet

Sanctus & Benedictus

Agnus Dei

Parce, Domine                                                            Jacob Obrecht

Salve regina                                                                 Jacob Vaet

Program notes

Our program offers a survey of Flemish Renaissance polyphony with works by four of its leading composers: Jacob Obrecht, Nicolas Gombert, Jacob Clemens non Papa, and Jacob Vaet. The Flemish composers dominated the musical scene across Renaissance Europe; many traveled and worked in other countries, while some remained at home and further honed their influential national style.

Composer and choirmaster Jacob Obrecht (1457/8-1505) was a contemporary of Josquin Desprez, the leading Franco-Flemish composer of the Renaissance. He worked in churches in Cambrei, Bruges and Antwerp and died of the plague in Ferrara, where he went at the invitation of Duke Ercole I d’Este. His large-scale setting of the popular prayer Salve Regina is thought to have been composed in the 1480s and is one of the most beautiful of the period. Passages of chant alternate with six-voice polyphony. The modest, three-voice setting of the prayer Parce, Domine demonstrates that Obrecht was as skilled composing for a few voices as he was for many.

Jacob Clemens (c.1510-1556) was one of the most gifted and prolific composers of the Franco-Flemish school. Unlike many of his native colleagues who found their fame in Italian and other European courts, Clemens remained employed in the Lowlands his entire life and as a result his music remained largely uninfluenced by the European mainstream. Although he spent the majority of his time in Ypres and Bruges, Clemens was also employed for a time by the Marian Brotherhood of ’s-Hertogenbosch in 1550. The motet referred to as “ter eeren onser liever vrouwen,” which Clemens gave them on his departure, is almost certainly his seven-part Ego flos campi. This is made even more likely by Clemens’ extensive treatment of the phrase “sicut lilium inter spinas,” which was the brotherhood’s motto. The text comes from Song of Songs and Clemens’ scoring probably symbolizes the Marian number seven.

Jacob Vaet (1529-1567) was a younger contemporary of Clemens who was born in Flanders but eventually lived and worked in Vienna.  Like Clemens, Vaet was a prolific composer in all of the sacred genres of his day, including “parody” masses based on models, usually motets, by Josquin Desprez, Jean Mouton, and Clemens. In his Missa Ego flos campi, Vaet borrows, or “parodies,” phrases from Clemens’ motet Ego flos campi with true ingenuity, retaining the lush texture of the motet while contributing inventive passages of his own, for example, the bass duet in canon set to the words of the Sanctus, “Pleni sunt caeli.”

Nicolas Gombert (c.1495-c.1560) joined Charles V’s capilla flamenca as a singer in 1526. In 1529, he was appointed Master of the Children, and in this position he traveled throughout the continent, together with the Imperial entourage. Gombert was also a cleric, perhaps a priest, and was awarded ecclesiastical benefices at Courtrai, Béthune, Lens, and Metz. Contemporaries suggest that Gombert had been a student of Josquin, but the details of this association are unknown. His compositions are entirely vocal, some for ensembles of up to twelve voices. As opposed to his Italian contemporaries, who had begun work on a more animated and harmonically oriented idiom, Gombert kept entirely within the domain of strict counterpoint.

Gombert’s Lugebat David Absalon is a two-part setting of uncommon complexity of the famous lament on the death of Absalom. The music for the prima pars is nearly identical to the music of Gombert’s secular song, Je prens congie, which also enjoyed popularity in its own time with the Easter text Tulerunt Dominum meum.

The discreet Credo for eight voices, scored for SSAATTBB, is one of Gombert’s largest and most sublime works. It is a separate composition, not part of one of his eleven masses. Gombert’s capacity to make eight voices sound so refined is nothing short of genius. It demonstrates not only mastery in working with eight parts, but also a fine use of antiphonal writing, ease in handling large structures, and seemingly limitless invention. Like Lugebat David Absalon, Gombert’s Credo borrows musical phrases from Je prens congie.

The final work on our program also quotes extensively from the Gombert song. Jacob Vaet set the Salve regina eight times. Like the Obrecht setting, this eight-part composition alternates chant and polyphony.

– Notes compiled by Doug Fullington

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