«Regina caeli laetare Francisco Guerrero (1528-99) Pater peccavi Thomas Crecquillon (ca. 1505-57) Gabriel Archangelus Guerrero Tristes erant apostoli ...»
Out of the
Sacred Music of
Sunday, July 17, 8PM
OUT OF THE SHADOWS:
SACRED MUSIC OF FRANCISCO GUERRERO AND THOMAS CRECQUILLON
Regina caeli laetare Francisco Guerrero (1528-99)
Pater peccavi Thomas Crecquillon (ca. 1505-57) Gabriel Archangelus Guerrero Tristes erant apostoli Guerrero Ingemuit Susanna Crecquillon Philippe, qui videt me Crecquillon Congratulamini Mihi Crecquillon Maria Magdalene Guerrero
NOTES ON THE PROGRAMIn their lifetimes, Francisco Guerrero and Thomas Crecquillon were among the most popular and acclaimed composers of the 16th century. In the intervening years, however, Guerrero has been eclipsed in stature among Spanish Renaissance composers by his contemporary, Victoria; Crecquillon, meanwhile, has disappeared almost entirely, with his greatest works surviving mostly as misattributions to better-known composers such as Clemens non Papa and Morales. In this concert, we present a range of sacred works by both composers, including some of their most well-known compositions as well as pieces that may not have been heard by audiences in hundreds of years.
Crecquillon, the earlier of the two composers whose works we present here, was choirmaster at the Imperial Chapel and unofficial court composer for Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. He belongs to the generation of Franco-Flemish composers immediately following Josquin, a generation in which the art of imitative polyphony was raised to arguably its highest state. Crecquillon’s skill in polyphonic writing was widely recognized in his lifetime and immediately thereafter—a collection of motets published in 1576 calls him “the most celebrated master” of Charles V’s court, and many great composers of his and the following generation wrote parody masses on melodies of Crecquillon’s. It is not clear why Crecquillon’s music has been largely neglected in the resurgence of interest in Franco-Flemish polyphony, as its beauty and skill in counterpoint holds up admirably in comparison to contemporaries such as Gombert and Clemens non Papa.
One composer of the late 16th century who found Crequillon’s melodies worthy of incorporating in his own music was the Spaniard Francisco Guerrero. Of the eighteen settings of the mass Guerrero produced, one of the most successful is the Missa Congratulamini mihi, based on the Crecquillon motet of that name that we perform this evening. Guerrero was a prodigy, graduating from choirboy at Seville, where he was born, to choirmaster at Jaén while still in his teens. He soon returned to Seville with the promise of eventually succeeding to the post of choirmaster there. Despite apparently obtaining his dream job, Guerrero apparently had a great curiosity about the world at large and spent many years away from his post traveling, including a remarkable visit to the Holy Land that culminated in his capture and ransom by pirates. His published account of this journey became almost as popular as his music. As a composer, he was perhaps best known in his lifetime for his deeply felt settings of Marian texts, which earned him the sobriquet “El Cantor de Maria.” In the initial revival of interest in sacred Renaissance polyphony in the mid-to-late 20th century, Guerrero’s music was mostly neglected in favor of that of his contemporary and countryman, Tomás Luis de Victoria; in recent years, however, many significant performances and recordings have begun to redress this imbalance.
Our program begins with one of Guerrero’s famous Marian settings, the eight-voice motet Regina caeli laetare.
This fairly short piece demonstrates some of the key features of Guerrero’s compositional style: skillful voice leading, strong emotional connection to the text, and a keen sense for the crowd-pleasing sonority. Though the voicing occasionally splits into two clear four-voice choirs, for the most part the counterpoint is seamlessly woven through all eight voices. The grand, ringing chord on the final “Alleluia” is something few composers do better than Guerrero and his counterpart on this program, as you will hear throughout the evening.
In Guerrero’s era, fully composed eight-part polyphony was reasonably common (though not often at the level of skill that Guerrero demonstrates); in Crecquillon’s time, however, it was almost unheard of. The eight-part motet Pater peccavi, which sets text from the parable of the Prodigal Son, is one of the earliest examples of true eight-voice polyphony, with each part holding an independent (and independently important) melodic line. The interplay of voices is so skillful that the piece sometimes seems in danger of dissolving into a wall of beautiful sound with no textual direction, but Crecquillon prevents this by interposing homophonic declarative passages at key moments. Those in the audience who attended our debut concert may remember this technique from the setting of Ego Flos Campi by Clemens non Papa, and indeed for this and other reasons, the Pater peccavi was long attributed to Clemens rather than Crecquillon. However, more recent scholarship based on the earliest source material have solidly established this work and Crecquillon’s other great eight-voice motet, Andrea Christus famulus (previously attributed to Morales), as Crecquillon’s own.
One of Guerrero’s lesser known Marian motets, the four-voice Gabriel Archangelus, gives us a chance to show off our treble forces. The text relates the story of the Annunciation and heavily quotes the most famous chant setting of the “Ave Maria” text (also familiar to listeners as the opening figure of Victoria’s Ave Maria motet). As the altos holds the harmonic base, the three soprano voices trade long, soaring lines of imitative polyphony, evoking the angelic and beatific nature of the text’s subjects. In contrast, Guerrero’s Easter motet Tristes erant apostoli, set in alternatim format for four lower voices, captures the solemn mood of the preResurrection verses of the Aurora lucis rutilat hymn from which the text is taken.
Crecquillon is noteworthy for, among many other things, writing motets on texts that are quite unfamiliar to modern listeners. The story of Susannah and the Elders, the basis of the motet Ingemuit Susanna, is one of these. The story was a popular subject of songs and visual art in the Renaissance but is less well known today, partly because the part of the Book of Daniel from which it is taken is now considered apocryphal by a large fraction of Christian churches. Crecquillon’s setting effectively captures Susannah’s mood as she must decide whether to submit to the unwanted advances of the elders or face execution as a (falsely) accused adulteress.
Crecquillon paints her decision to take the righteous path is set with resolute, almost triumphant music, particularly on the “Domini” of “in conspectu Domini” (“in the eyes of the Lord”). The short motet Philippe, qui videt me also sets a text that was used several times in Crecquillon’s era but is little known today. In this case, the reason is almost certainly that the 16th-century Franco-Flemish composers chose the text to honor Philip II of Spain, son of Charles V. One hypothesis is that Crecquillon’s setting was written to accompany the ceremonial entrance of Philip and Charles into Antwerp on Philip’s 1549 visit to the Low Countries.1 Our performance concludes with two grand motets on the one of the most emotionally accessible stories in the Christian liturgy, the witness of Mary Magdalene to the Resurrection. In Crecquillon’s relentlessly sunny Congratulamini mihi, the composer sets Mary’s own words of joy to a series of lovely melodies that eventually caught Guerrero’s ear and inspired his mass of the same name. The first half of the piece pauses only briefly to acknowledge the sadness that preceded the celebration at “et dum flerum” (“while I was weeping”). The second half acknowledges this complexity slightly more by interposing the Vespers text “Tulérunt Dóminum 1 Ham, p. 318 meum, et néscio ubi posuérunt eum : si tu sustulísti eum, dícito mihi” (“They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him : if thou have borne him hence tell me”), but soon the joy takes hold again, culminating in a lovely, ringing “Alleluia”.
The final work on the program, Guerrero’s Maria Magdalene explores the same thematic material but with far greater range of emotion. The text of the piece is narrative, telling of the visit of Mary Magdalene and Mary (wife of Cleophas) to the tomb. Much of the first part of this long, two-part motet is beautiful but straightforward, with small touches such as the especially sweet harmonies on “emerunt aromata” (“they bought sweet spices”). The first part concludes with a foreshadowing of the big moment to come on “orto iam sole” (“at the rising of the sun”) and the first “Alleluia.” The second half of the piece initially sets up the fear and strangeness of the encounter with the brilliantly clad white stranger in the tomb. Then, as the stranger speaks, Guerrero employs a series of unexpected key changes to emphasize that something very different is happening. One can almost hear the moment of the Resurrection signaled when the long run in the tenor line brings the harmony back to the original chord just as the rest of the voices begin the text “surrexit, non est hic” (“he is risen; he is not here”). The the denoument of the piece on “ecce locus ubi posuerunt eum. Alleluia” (“behold the place where they laid him. Alleluia”) is almost tender but still gloriously joyful.
— Tom Crawford, July 2011 References: David Mason Greene, Greene’s Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers, Doubleday & Co., 1985; Grove Music Online; Martin Ham, Thomas Crecquillon in context: a reappraisal of his life and of selected works, University of Surrey, Department of Music, 1998.
ABOUT THE ENSEMBLEAnd the servants also of Huram, and the servants of Solomon, which brought gold from Ophir, brought algum trees and precious stones. And the king made of the algum trees terraces to the house of the LORD, and to the king’s palace, and harps and psalteries for singers; and there were none such seen before in the land of Judah. (2 Chronicles 9:10–11) King Solomon’s Singers is an ensemble dedicated to the performance of Renaissance polyphony and chant. The members of the ensemble are professional and semi-professional singers from the Chicago area—members of ensembles such as Chicago Chorale, Schola Antiqua of Chicago, The Oriana Singers, The Chicago Early Music Consort, and Chicago a cappella—who share a love of this particular repertoire. For more information, visit our website at http://www.king-solomons-singers.org/ or find us on Facebook.
SPECIAL THANKSKing Solomon’s Singers wish to thank Chicago Theological Seminary for providing rehearsal space;
the Seminary Co-op Bookstore for donation of resources; and Cathryn Crawford for logistical assistance and