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Decca Phase 4
Music for the Court of Maximilian II
Jacobus VAET (c.1529-1567)
Videns Dominus a 5 [04:55]
Antonius GALLI (d.1565)
Missa Ascendetis post filium a 6 [34:00]
Conditor alme siderum a 6 [06:43]
O quam gloriosum a 4 [02:18]
Pieter MAESSENS (c.1505-1562)
Discessu dat tota tuo a 6 [03:58]
Ascendetis post filium 'In laudem Invictiss. Rom. Imp. Max
II' a 6 [06:50]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594)
Pacis amans a 6 [05:07]
Continuo lacrimas 'In mortem Clementis non Papae' a 6 [03:39]
rec. June 2006, Dominikanerkirche, Retz, Austria DDD
Until the start of the 19th century
most composers were in the service of emperors, kings or aristocrats.
As a result music
politics were strongly intertwined.
In the 16th century the Habsburg dynasty was by far the most powerful
in Europe, ruling the largest part of Central Europe, the
Low Countries and Spain. As music was an essential part of
everyday life, and certainly in the life of the Habsburg
family, many pieces were written in their honour or for special
occasions. There would be works to mark an enthronement,
a marriage or a birth.
Composers who were members of the emperor's chapel were first-rate
musicians. Most of them are still well-known and their works
are regularly performed and recorded. But there are exceptions,
and one of them is Jacobus Vaet. He was born about 1529 in
the Southern Netherlands. In 1543 he entered the Onze Lieve
Vrouwkerk in Kortrijk as a choirboy, and in 1547 began at
the University of Louvain. In the 1550s he was a member of
the Court of Emperor Charles V. In 1554 he became Kapellmeister
of Charles's nephew, Archduke Maximilian of Austria, whom
he followed to Vienna where Maximilian was crowned emperor
Maximilian II in 1564.
Vaet was held in high esteem. In 1564 a collection of 23
motets was printed in a volume in which works by Vaet appeared
pieces by Lassus – apparently they were considered equals.
The appearance here of a motet by Lassus is very appropriate.
After his premature death many eulogies on Vaet were written,
for instance by Jacob Handl (Gallus) and Antonius Galli,
who also composed a mass on a motet by Vaet. Although Vaet
was short-lived, his oeuvre is pretty large including nine
mass settings and 66 motets. From 1961 to 1968 a complete
edition of his works was published, but for some reason he
never made it into the programmes of renaissance music ensembles.
His works are however being rediscovered in our time: apart
from this disc the German label Ars Musici has started a
Vaet edition with the Dufay Ensemble. The volumes which have
been released so far show the unmistakable qualities of Vaet's
music. The performances are splendid, so they can be recommended
to anyone interested in Vaet's music.
This disc is definitely a good appetizer. The motet 'Ascendens
post filium' is a so-called 'state motet', a piece which
in honour of a royal person, in this case Maximilian II.
It is one of Vaet’s 17 state motets. It is a paraphrase of
verses from I Kings 1, in which Solomon is anointed king
of Israel at the orders of his father David. At the end of
the first section, which says: "I shall teach him, so
that he may be your ruler", Vaet uses running scales
to express joy. The ensemble takes the liberty of singing
this forte. This use of dynamics is one of the distinguishing
features of this ensemble's performances. It is also used
at several moments in the Galli mass, which is based on Vaet's
motet. In 1554 he was listed as "Cantor" of Maximilian's
chapel, from which moment he was steadily promoted; at the
end of his life he was "Hofprediger" (court preacher).
The mass makes frequent use of the most characteristic motif
from Vaet's motet, the ascending scale with which it begins.
Rhythmic alterations and homophony are used to single out
The other pieces on this disc show different aspects of renaissance
composing. Vaet's motet 'Conditor alme siderum' is an alternatim
setting of a hymn sung at Vespers during Advent. The odd-numbered
verses are to be sung in plainchant. The first piece on this
disc, Vaet's motet 'Videns Dominus', is about the raising
of Lazarus. Here again the ensemble sings forte, at the end
of the first section, when Jesus is quoted crying "Lazarus,
come forth". Ascending and descending scales depict
the opening of the tomb.
The motet 'Discessu' by Pieter Maessens is a logical addition
to the programme. Maessens was a member of the chapel of
father Ferdinand. He was responsible for recruitment to the
choirs of both Ferdinand and Maximilian. It is very likely
that it was through him that Vaet entered Maximilian's chapel.
Maessens' motet is "an enigmatic puzzle canon based
on Maximilian's name"; so writes Stephen Rice in the
booklet. This procedure is known as soggetto cavato "because
the subject is 'carved' from the dedicatee's name". "Maessens's soggetto is
then imitated in the lower fifth in the first part of the
motet, and subsequently at the upper fourth. A Latin poem
indicates that – in addition to the two canonic voices – the
discant and tenor parts can be reversed, making multiple
versions of the piece possible." Intellectual games
like this are one of the aspects of renaissance compositional
The disc ends with a piece which was not composed for the
Habsburg chapel. 'Continuo lacrimas' was written "in mortem Clementis
non Papae", at the occasion of the death of Jacobus
Clemens non Papa. He was one of the most famous representatives
of the Franco-Flemish school, who died in 1555 or 1556. Vaet
had also used one of Clemens' motets for a parody mass. In
this motet Vaet uses the introitus from the Requiem Mass,
'Requiem aeternam', as cantus firmus.
This is the first recording by the ensemble Cinquecento.
The ensemble consists of six singers from five countries:
Switzerland, Belgium and the UK. They are particularly interested
in lesser-known repertoire from the renaissance. They couldn't
have made a better start than with this disc. I very much
like the sound of the ensemble, which is full and warm, and
at the same time very clear and bright. Fortunately there
are no wobbly voices here. One feature of this recording
is the relaxed manner of the singing: even at the top of
their range – and some notes are very high. Not once do the
upper voices sound stressed. The recording is also brilliant
acoustically speaking: just the right atmosphere for this
kind of music. If there is a point of criticism it is the
Italian pronunciation of the Latin texts: I sincerely doubt
that this was the way Latin was pronounced in the Habsburg
I strongly recommend this disc because of the quality of the music
and of the performance. On top of that it brings to the catalogue
repertoire that has not been recorded before.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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