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Thomas Crecquillon Collected Works, vol. 6, Motets in Five Voices.

(Neuhausen: American Institute of Musicology/HansslerVerlag, 1996)

6: Motets in five voices, ed. Mary Tiffany Ferer and Barton Hudson, DM 178

As part of the famous controversy between Monteverdi and the theorist Artusi, Monteverdi's brother published in 1607 a lengthy amplification of Monteverdi's position; there he gave substance to the terms prima prattica and seconda prattica and listed a number of prima prattica composers: Ockeghem, Josquin, La Rue, Mouton, Crecquillon, Clemens, Gombert and Willaert. Those names, as a list of major composers of polyphony, would hardly be a surprise today except perhaps for the prominent inclusion of Crecquillon, who has received far less attention from scholars and performers than has any other of the composers in that parade of the great.

We know little of Crecquillon's life, which may help account for his comparative neglect as a composer. As he is such an unfamiliar figure, it is perhaps worth putting him into some sort of context. He was probably a contemporary of Clemens, and was associated with the chapel of the Emperor Charles V for a period of some ten or more years from 1540, for some of the time as chapelmaster. His music, secular and sacred, was printed in large quantities from 1543 onwards; and nearly 20 years after his presumed death in 1557 a major retrospective of his motets was published. The esteem in which he was held is evident from rather more than just the citing of his name in the Monteverdi-Artusi controversy, for instance, motets by Crecquillon were used as models for Masses by Rogier, de la Hele and Guerrero.

The quality of some of Crecquillon's music is such that today his eight-voice motet Andreas Christi famulus has been--through a double attribution--happily accepted and printed as the work of Morales. He has greater claim, too, to the beautiful eight-voice motet Pater peccavi, attributed in some sources to Clemens (and recorded under Clemens's name by the Tallis Scholars).

Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae (CMM) has already completed the publication of Crecquillon's Masses and his motets for eight, six and three voices. These new volumes cover 30 of his five-voice motets and 14 of his four-voice motets. The four-voice motets have been available for many years in an edition by H. L. Marshall, but greater source information and fresh material nevertheless make a new edition welcome. The position in relation to the five-voice motets, which form the largest part of Crecquillon's motet output, has been rather more deficient, with very few pieces being available. Although the five-voice motets include many fine works the lack of readily available and reliable editions has hindered any but the specialist from becoming familiar with them, so these volumes are doubly welcome in starting to fill that gap.

In volumes 6 and 11 the editors discuss briefly the problem of motets with ascriptions to more than one composer (no fewer than 16 five-voice and 18 four-voice motets), and attempt a reliable attribution. Only in three cases are they unable to decide. Despite the bulk of source material that the editors have amassed, there are a further seven possible cross-attributions that they have not noted. Of these, three are probably material: Da pacem, Domine is also ascribed to Clemens (printed in CMM iv/3), Nos autem gloriari to Lupi (in CMM lxxxiv/2) and Os loquentium again to Clemens (in CMM iv/20). The second and third are more likely to be by Lupi and Crecquillon respectively, while the first adds to the difficulty of distinguishing between Crecquillon and Clemens already evident elsewhere.

Of the many gross-attributions identified by the editors, the conclusions on probable authorship seem generally sound. I have some reservations, nevertheless. The editors prefer Manchicourt as the composer of Super montem excelsum. The conclusion is correct. I am sure, but the evidence of the dedication of the print in which it first appears and which makes clear Manchicourt's personal involvement in the publication is not mentioned, and thus the case for Manchicourt may seem weaker than it actually is. Another instance is the exclusion of Quis dabit mihi pennas, which does not seem justified on the evidence presented. A third reservation concerns one of the three motets whose authorship remains problematical, Quam pulchra es, ascribed to Benedictus as well as Crecquillon. This motet, unusually, is written on a secular cantus firmus, the lied Kain Adler in der Welt, and aspects of that cantus firmus and stylistic details point rather more strongly to Benedictus than to Crecquillon as the likely composer. I am puzzled, too, by the discussion of Domine ne memineris (printed in CMM iv/19). Clemens is accepted as the likely composer, with the evidence of three late sources (not specifically identified in the discussion) ascribing it to Crecquillon being discounted. However, the piece under Crecquillon's name in two of those sources, lute tablatures, is different from the Clemens motet.

The layout of the editions is the familiar one: a statement of editorial procedure, a list of sources and a critical commentary on each piece with a list of source variants. The editorial statement sets out the intention to give the reader sufficient information to interpret and evaluate editorial decisions. That seems well achieved with the exception of changes to underlay in some pieces where alterations have been made to a source reading without more than a general note. There are two other aspects which disappoint. First, the printed sources are identified only by their titles and RISM reference. With the possibility that future research will show differences between exemplars of the same edition, it might have been helpful for the precise copies used to be identified by library and call number. Second, the list of contents of sources includes only the items edited in that particular volume, and the folio number is then given only in the commentary for the individual piece. That makes it difficult for those who will have to rely on this edition rather than original sources to reconstruct the contents and order of any particular source. It could obscure potentially useful information, such as the apparent attempt by the editor of the large posthumous collection of Crecquillon's motets published in 1576 to order the pieces modally.

The individual motet commentaries are brief and to the point, with identification of texts and clear translations. Again, though, the commentaries provide points for discussion at the least, as in the case of Accende lumen sensibus, verse four of the hymn Veni creator spiritus. The editors rightly draw attention to the existence in the same source of Crecquillon's setting of the first two verses for four voices. That setting actually precedes this motet directly. However, the music for the first two verses is the same, and there is reason to think that verse one was copied from verse two, rather than the reverse. What we have therefore is likely not to be two separate items, but an adaptation of an original alternatim hymn; we will have to await publication of the remaining volumes of four-voice motets to get the work complete, though. There are other quibbles: why, for instance, should the mensuration sign of uncut C in all five voices of the moving funeral motet Cur Fernandes pater be regarded as an error?

The application of ficta can be problematic in music of this period, and Crecquillon is no exception. The editors have set out clearly the basis upon which they have applied it, but they admit that consistency is impossible. It is therefore no criticism to say that in some instances different solutions might be found. The approach seems to be one of a relatively restrained application, which certainly seems preferable to an over-lavish one. However, even with that approach, there are some oddities and unnecessary inconsistencies. Examples that I noticed included no ficta on an obvious cadence point (no.37, bar 12), editorial ficta on cadences where the 3rd is doubled (no.34, bar 127) but not in comparable places elsewhere (e.g. no.18, bar 47), and the creation of an augmented 6th by the double application of ficta (no.34, bar 96).

Presentation is generally excellent: note values have been halved; the layout is clear and easy to read. Just occasionally, notes are cramped or too close to a barline, which could easily have been corrected. It is good that incomplete pieces and one known only in an instrumental version are included.

Given the monumental task of preparing editions such as these, the reservations are small, and should not detract from recognition of the scholarly achievement involved, and from the fresh opportunity that is presented for Crecquillon's music to become more widely known and its delights better appreciated. It is to be hoped that these volumes will attract the attention of choir directors. Some pieces are still suitable for liturgical use, while some of the motets with occasional texts are fine enough to provide repertory for any group that presents, or simply enjoys, music of this period.
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Author:Ham, Martin
Publication:Early Music
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 1997
Words:1490
Previous Article:The Recorder in the 17th Century: Proceedings of the International Recorder Symposium, Utrecht 1993.
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