Friday, December 07, 2012

Virgo prudentissima

Virgo prudentissima is the antiphon upon Magnificat at First Vespers of the Feast of the Assumption;  here it is, along with Magnificat, in a gorgeous recording from the choral group Vox Clamantis' new CD, "Filia Sion":

From the YouTube page:
Published on Nov 8, 2012
Antiphon: Virgo prudentissima

Sung by Vox Clamantis, from their CD Filia Sion (ECM).

I do not own the copyright. Please support the artists who make such beautiful music.
Please: do.   This Estonian choral group has been around since 1996 - I wasn't familiar with them till now, though! - and they are terrific.  Here's the CD page at Amazon, where you can listen to other clips; all the chants come from Marian feasts.

You can find Virgo prudentissima at Divinum Officium by typing in 08-14-2012 (or any year, in fact) at the top, and clicking, at the bottom of the page, on Vesperae; that makes it the Eve of the August 15th Feast of the Assumption, and will bring up the correct propers.

Here's the plainchant score, embedded in another recording, along with the Latin text and an English translation below:

Virgo prudentissima quo progrederis quasi aurora valde rutilans? Filia Sion tota formosa et suavis es pulchra ut luna electa ut sol.

Virgin most prudent, where are you going, rosy as the dawn? Daughter of Sion, you are altogether lovely and sweet, gorgeous as the moon, chosen as the sun.

Here's the antiphon's main listing at Cantus Database; it seems to have been used in some places more generally as "de BMV" - and at the Marian Conception (that's tomorrow, December 8) and Nativity feast days as well.

Here's a polyphonic setting of the antiphon, composed by Elzear Genet (Carpentras) (c 1470--1548); not sure who the singers are, but the YouTube page it's recorded at Staples Family Concert Hall, Central Michigan University.

Here's part of Wikipedia's entry on Genet-Carpentras:
He was born in the town of Carpentras, but nothing else is known about his early life. Sometime before 1505, he took ecclesiastical orders, since when he was hired in the Avignon chapel in that year he was called "clericus." He spent most of his life alternately in Avignon and Rome.

Evidently he was acquainted with Avignon bishop Giuliano della Rovere, for when the bishop became Pope Julius II Carpentras went with him to Rome, where he sang in the papal chapel; he was listed in a roll of the singers there in 1508. However after a few years he left the chapel to work at the court of Louis XII of France, though little is known about him at this time; clearly he was composing large quantities of secular music, some of it quite irreverent, for when he returned to Rome in 1513 he specifically promised to stop writing it. He became master of the papal chapel in 1514, now under the Medici Pope Leo X, who was an enthusiastic patron of music and the arts. When Leo X died in 1521, Carpentras fled Rome for Avignon; the new pope Adrian VI was uninterested in music, if not actively hostile, and many musicians gave him a "walking ovation."

When Adrian VI died in 1523, the new pope, Clement VII, was again a fine patron of the arts, and Carpentras returned to Rome. While there he was surprised to discover his own music still being sung but in bastardized versions; as a result he carefully copied over some of his music, such as the pictured setting of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, and presented this collection to Clement VII as the "true" or "corrected" version. However, he did not stay in Rome, and after only two years he departed for Avignon, this time for good.

In 1526 he became afflicted with tinnitus, a condition which terrified him, and which he described as a continuous hissing in his head. Apparently it was at this time that he withdrew from practical music-making and instead decided to devote himself to publishing his entire output of sacred music, an immense undertaking, and the earliest recorded such attempt in music history. The publication was troublesome; one of the printers failed to align the notes to staves correctly, and the entire process ended in arbitration at one point: however eventually, in the mid 1530s, he was able to issue four large collections of his music. Two of the volumes he dedicated to Pope Clement VII, and the other two to Cardinal Ippolito de'Medici.

Heinrich Isaac wrote a long motet, one that includes lots more text (including prayers for "the sacred Empire and for Maximilian the Emperor"!), based on this antiphon.  Here's part of it at least, with the complete Latin and English texts below:

Virgo prudentissima quae pia gaudia mundo
attulit, ut sphaeras omnes transcendit et astra
sub nitidis pedibus radiis, et luce chorusca
liquit et ordinibus iam circumsepta novenis
ter tribus atque ierarchiis excepta. Supremi
ante Dei faciem steterat, patrona reorum.
Dicite qui colitis splendentia culmina Olimpi:
Spirituum proceres, Anchangeli et Angeli et alme
Virtutesque Throni vos Principum, et agmina sancta,
vosque Potestates, et tu dominatio caeli
flammantes Cherubin, verbo Seraphinque creati,
an vos laetitiae tantus perfuderit unquam
sensus, ut aeterni Matrem vidisse tonantis
consessum. Caelo, terraque, marique potentem
Reginam, cuius nomen modo spiritus omnis
et genus humanum merito veneratur adorat.

Vos, Michael, Gabriel, Raphael testamur ad aures

illius, ut castas fundetis vota precesque
pro sacro Imperio, pro Caesare Maximiliano.
Det Virgo omnipotens hostes superare malignos:
restituat populis pacem terrisque salutem.
Hoc tibi devota carmen Georgius arte
ordinat Augusti Cantor Rectorque Capellae.
Austriacae praesul regionis, sedulus omni,
se in tua commendat studio pia gaudia mater.
Praecipuum tamen est Illi quo assumpta fuisti,
quo tu pulchra ut luna micas electa es, et ut sol.

Cantus firmus:

Virgo prudentissima, quo progrederis, quasi aurora valde rutilans? Filia Sion.
Tota formosa et suavis es: pulchra ut luna, electa ut sol.

When the most wise Virgin, who brought holy joy to the world, rose above all the spheres and left the stars beneath her shining feet in gleaming, radiant light, she was surrounded by the ninefold Ranks and received by the nine Hierarchies. She, the friend of suppliants, stood before the face of the supreme God. You who inhabit eternally the dazzling lights of Heaven –– Archangels, leaders of the spirits, and Angels, and sustaining virtues, and you thrones of princes, and you holy armies and you powers, and you dominions of Heaven, and you fiery Cherubim, and you Seraphim, created from the Word – say whether such a feeling of joy has ever overwhelmed you as when you saw the assembly of the Mother of the everlasting Almighty. She is the queen, powerful in Heaven, on land and at sea; every Spirit and every human being rightly praises and adores her divine majesty.

You, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we beg you to pour out to her chaste ears our prayers and entreaties for the sacred Empire and for Maximilian the Emperor. May the all-powerful Virgin grant that he may conquer his wicked enemies and restore peace to the nations and safety to the lands. With faithful skill Georgius, the emperor's Precentor and Kapellmeister, rehearses this anthem for you. The Governor of the Province of Austria, diligent in all things, earnestly commends himself to your holy pleasure, mother. The highest place, however, belongs to Him by whom you were taken up, so that you shine beautiful as the moon, excellent as the sun.

Cantus firmus: Virgin most wise, where are you going, Daughter of Sion, shining out as brightly as the dawn? You are most comely and merciful, beautiful as the moon, excellent as the sun.

HT - again! -  for the pointer to the Vox Clamantis video to cburrell at All Manner of Thing, who writes on his blog about this recording (one of his "Favorites of 2012"):
Vox Clamantis varies the texture by including several pieces by the likes of Hildegard von Bingen and Perotin, and the results are dazzling, in a quietly peaceful way. What sets this record apart from the scores of similarly programmed collections of chant is not the quality of the singing, exactly (though the singing is terrific) nor the technical excellence of the sound engineering (though it could not be better), but the quiet, even contemplative, spirit that presides over the whole. There is a wonderful, restful poise to this music; to hear it is like entering a haven. It is hard to say just how or why that is so; I can only say that, for me, the experience is rare, and so I regard this record as a treasure. The liner notes are worth pondering too: “The Gospels do not reveal all of Mary’s feelings to us; the mystery of the Incarnation is only briefly presented. Relying on a few phrases and returning endlessly to the sacred words and setting them in different contexts, the musical tradition shows their inexhaustible richness. Medieval compositions meditate on the mystery of the Incarnation in all its aspects. They display different shades of joy: explosive, superabundant joy which wells up like a source, as well as the shimmer of peaceful, meditative wonder before ‘the miracle never seen, the joy never known’.” To describe this music, and these performances of it, as “joy which wells up like a source” and a “shimmer of peaceful, meditative wonder” is as good and fitting a description as any. Highly recommended.

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