13th- and 14th-century chant and polyphony in honor of the Virgin MaryPurchase An English Ladymass at:
of the miracles of the Blessed Virgin abound from the late middlea ges.
Her powers of intercession with her Son were apparently
limitless;murderers, thieves, and every variety of miscreant could turn
to Mary to be saved from their well-deserved punishment. She was the key
to heaven— the kindly Mother who would not fail to
smuggle an erring child into Paradise. And her cult was strong.
In the 13th century, a Mass to the Virgin, a Ladymass, was offered dailyin the Lady chapel of Salisbury Cathedral. Most large churches had Ladychapels where such votive Masses were celebrated, either daily, as at Salisbury,or on Saturday, a day especially dedicated to Mary. Of the English polyphony preserved from this time, almost all of which is sacred, roughly two-thirds is in honor of the Virgin; much of this music could play a role in the Ladymass. For this recording, we have used liturgical polyphony and chant,along with other devotional works from the 13th and early 14th centuries, to create a composite Ladymass.
Among the works included in our Ladymass are motet-like settings ofMass chants. The introit Salve sancta parens, the gradual Benedicta etvenerabilis, and the alleluia Per te dei were part of the Ladymass liturgy from the feast of the Purification (February 2) to Easter. The sequence Missus Gabriel de celis, the offertory Felix namque and the communion Beataviscera were sung during Advent. The latter two lack surviving polyphonic settings, and are here performed in their plainchant versions from the13th-century Sarum Gradual. The three-part song Beata viscera sets a poetic paraphrase of the communion chant, to which it is not musically related.
There is no direct association of items of the Mass Ordinary (Kyrie,Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus dei) with the plan of the Ladymass. We have chosen a polyphonic Kyrie and Gloria pair that survive in the same manuscript,both of which feature virtuosic swirls of ornamental pitches. The Kyriehas additional text (a "trope") in honor of Mary, the "Christifera" or Christ-bearer. The Agnus dei is set in"alternatim" style, the liturgical plainchant alternating with a polyphonic Marian trope. The ritual Mass dismissal Ite missa est is an early example of four-voice composition, filled with rollicking melismas and unabashed dissonances.
Since it was often permissible to substitute a new work for the prescribed liturgical sequence, we have used some of these works to augment our Ladymass.Missus Gabriel de celis occurs at the usual place for the sequence. The other sequences are Gaude virgo salutata and Gaude virgo gloriosa from the plainsong Dublin Troper, and Jesu Cristes milde moder, a two-voice English setting of the Stabat mater text.
We have also included devotional works in other genres: strophic songs or conductus (Edi beo thu hevene quene and Salve virgo virginum), motets with multiple texts (Spiritus et alme/Gaude virgo salutata), and a rondellus (Flos regalis), a particularly English breed of composition that features a round-like exchange of tunes among the voice parts. We close with the simple and lovely vespers hymn Ave maris stella, from a 13th-century manuscript at Worcester.
The fragmentary and scattered state of 13th- and 14th-century English polyphonic sources makes the creation of an edition a daunting task. There exists not even one substantial intact manuscript source from which to work. Instead, there are hundreds of strips, scraps, paste downs, and fly leaves to be found, matched, deciphered, and transcribed. Reconstructions, ranging from a few notes to an entire voice part, are often necessary. Imaginative scholarship as well as subtle musical grace were apparent in all of Ernest Sanders’ transcriptions and restorations in the editions from which we drew these polyphonic works for our Ladymass. It has been a pleasure to bring them to life.SUSAN HELLAUER
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