Gaude Virgo, Mater Christi

Composed by Josquin des Prez
Edited by Holland Jancaitis
Series Editor: Simon Carrington
Voicing: SATB a cappella
Catalog number: AMP 0680
Price: $1.80

Editorial Note:
While the late Renaissance was crowded with composers contending for the title of most significant composer, the middle Renaissance has one clear master who rises above all others: Josquin des Prez.

Gaude virgo mater Christi is unusual among Josquin's works in that its voicing matches well with the distribution of the modern mixed–voice choir.

The text of this rarely–set Marian sequence is strictly metric, consisting of six verses of three lines with 8, 8, and 7 syllables each. The first five verses begin with the imperative “Gaude” (“rejoice”), while the last ends “in perenni gaudio” (“in everlasting joy”).

The motet begins with two verses of paired imitation, after which all four parts combine. A striking moment of text painting occurs on the word “ascendente” as a two–octave scale rises from the basses through the altos.

The music builds, becoming gradually more homophonic, and culminates with a spectacular cadence in the final “Alleluia.”

Performance Notes:
Current informed editorial custom frowns on multiple marks in choral scores, but music of this period is highly effective when performed with a wide range of expression and dynamic.

Here are a few suggestions for those less familiar with the idiom:

• This motet really comes to life when sung at a brisk tempo. I recommend half note = 90.

• Singers should speak the text through many times to internalize the rhythm and underline the stressed syllables.

• The weak syllables should be de-emphasized no matter where in the measure they occur.

• Starting the motet with a deliberate taper of the word “GAU–(de)” will set
the style for the rest of the piece. Stressed correctly and confidently, the duets in the opening pages become very exciting, as the emphases are tossed around between the voices.

• Remember that the minor 6th interval over a pedal note is usually an expressive device.

• Linger on these notes occasionally – e.g., the B flats in the soprano part measure 2.

• Where four part sections follow two part, build the energy and dynamic towards the cadences.

• The climax of the cadences in most cases is the suspension – not the last note.

• Crescendo to the suspension, but then allow the tension to ease – except perhaps at the very end.

• From measure 37 to the end, one way to heighten the effect is to build the dynamic and recede several times: crescendo from measure 37 and peak at measure 48; begin measure 49 softer, and build again to measure 56.

• The “Alleluia” can begin hushed and marcato, growing louder and broader through the final chord.

Holland Jancaitis
Yale University
June 2006

Click here to see a sample.

Click here to listen to a recording (MP3).

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