This programme offers a group of motets representing, in ideal form, a sequence of Burgundian princely devotions to the Passion of Christ. It takes its cue from the great codex Brussels 9126, with a dedicatory group to Philip the Fair (‘Exordium’) and the two great Josquin motets presented within our second topic (‘Cross and Passion’). Given the dedication of the manuscript to Philip the Fair it is unsurprising to find, in addition to the contrafacted Missa Philippus rex Castilie (originally Josquin’s Missa Hercules dux Ferrarie), a motet for St Philip that likewise survives with a different text. The unique, and sadly anonymous, Maxsimilla Cristo amabilis for St Andrew, patron of the House of Burgundy and of the Order of the Golden Fleece, seems similarly to be a fragment from a larger ritual of dynastic significance and ceremonial homage.
Our sequence of devotions continues with the Cross and Passion, Pierre de la Rue’s Vexilla regis/ Passio Domini nostri serving to set the plangent scene for two classics which, for this audience, will scarcely need an introduction: Josquin’s humanistic monologue of Christ on the Cross, Huc me sydereo, and his setting – surely the quintessential example – of Jacopone da Todi’s more clearly medieval if equally moving metres that make up the Stabat mater. The plangent tone continues into our Easter devotions, with the little-known and anonymous Tristis est anima mea opening a clutch of pieces from the precious set of Fugger partbooks conserved in Vienna. The joyous tone of the resurrection, naturally heralded by the Regina celi sung in chant, is expressed in two brilliant motets by Mouton (Noli flere, Maria; Alleluia confitemini) which, like Tristis, elaborate gospel scenes directly involving Christ, but liturgically and devotionally reformulated.
Since our programme is arranged in the form of a sequence of devotions, we have included pieces to represent the thirteenth-century liturgy of Corpus Christi. Most of these set texts from the liturgy for that Feast by St Thomas Aquinas, the exception being the moving and contemplative Ave caro Christi cara once thought to be by Josquin but now more generally ascribed to Noel Bauldeweyn. Sharing with this motet the pages of Vienna 15941 is the unique but sadly incomplete Fevin motet Homo quidam fecit cenam magnam — a responsory cast in the form of a bipartite motet, with the versus beginning the secunda pars and with the textual repeat brought back resoundingly at the end. Tonight’s performance of the piece is a world premiere, its missing superius supplied by Philip Weller.