LA RUE: Mass of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin / Missa Pascale
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Pierre de La Rue(c.1460-1518)
Missa de SeptemDolorlbus; Missa Pascale; Pater de caelis; Vexilla Regis
Born probably at Tournai in about the year 1460, Pierre de La Rue ismentioned as a tenor and then as a singer-composer in the records of theConfraternity of Our Lady at 's-Hertogenbosch from 1489 to 1492. For a shorttime first chaplain to the Burgundian-Habsburg court of Brussels-Mechelen, hetwice accompanied Philip the Fair to Spain, in 1501 and 1506. He spent the restof his career in Flanders, serving for nearly a quarter of a century theBurgundian-Habsburg rulers in the Chapel of the Holy Roman Emperor MaximilianI, Philip the Fair (King of Castile), Joanna of Spain, Marguerite of Austria(Regent of the Netherlands) and finally the young Archduke Karl, the futureCharles V. In 1505 he was appointed canon of the collegiate church in Courtrai,but was dispensed from the obligation to live there. He settled at Termonde,leaving in 1516 for Courtrai, where he died on 20th November 1518.
Sacred works hold the principal place among Pierre de La Rue'scompositions and survive in over 150 manuscripts and publications. He wrotethirty Masses, seven parts of Masses, 24 motets and 3'7 chansons. Twelve contrafactaare Latin motets based on pre-existent works. Marguerite of Austria, themelancholy Regent, twice widowed, collected a large number of works by herfavourite composer in two richly illuminated manuscripts. In the 150magnificent manuscripts copied for the Burgundian-Habsburg dynasty up to 1530,Pierre de La Rue is represented twice as much as his contemporary JosquinDesprez. In over forty years following his death the sacred works of Pierre deLa Rue continued to be published, by Lutheran printers in Wittemberg andNuremberg, while in France Pierre Attaignant and other publishers issued hischansons. Musical theorists of the sixteenth century mention him for hisability in counterpoint and Sebald Heyden in 1537, Glareanus in 1547 and Morleyin 1597 give examples from his Masses. In the eighteenth century Charles Burneyrecalls his name and in the nineteenth his music was first rediscovered byAmbros in Vienna and Thibaut at Heidelberg.
Pierre de La Rue's reputation as a composer of Masses was firmlyestablished by 1500. The Misse Petri de La Rue were published byOttaviano Petrucci in 1503. All these Masses are found at least once in amanuscript by Alamire, the copyist of the Burgundian-Habsburg dynasty in theNetherlands.
The five-part Missa de Septem Doloribus beatissime marie virginis isfound in five manuscripts of Burgundian origin preserved in Brussels, Jena andthe Vatican. It was probably written after Match 1497, when Pierre de La Ruebecame chaplain to the Grande Chapelle of Philip the Fair. The Feast of theSeven Sorrows - the prophecy of Simeon in the Temple (St Luke), the flight intoEgypt (St Matthew), Jesus in the Temple (St Luke), Jesus carrying the Cross (St
John), Jesus crucified (St John), Mary carrying the body of Jesus (notbiblical) and the entombment of Jesus (St Luke) - celebrated onthe eve of Palm Sunday, was established in Cologne in 1423. Thanks to thesupport and interest of Philip the Fait, the Confraternity of Our Lady of theSeven Sorrows in 1495 received the approval of Pope Alexander VI and Marguerite of Austria founded at Bruges theConvent of Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows, where she planned to retire. In 1482Pope Sixtus IV had added a Mass to the Missal and in 1495 Father MichelFran?ºois, a Dominican friar in Lille arid confessor of Philip the Fair,published in the Quodlibetica decisio a defence of this new feast-day.
The cantus firmi of the Missa de Septem Doloribus aretaken from four different sources: Dolores gloriose in the first tenorof the first Kyrie, Trenosa compassio of the Christ eleison and Feritgladius of the second Kyrie to the end of the Mass, drawn from thefifteenth-century sequence Salve virgo generosa. In the second OsannaPierre de La Rue uses the sopranos' concluding text and melody from thefour-part motet Ave Maria by Josquin, issued by Petrucci in 1502.
Sung on Easter Sunday, the Missa Pascale is found in sixmanuscripts of Burgundian origin, preserved at Mechelen, Brussels, Jena and theVatican. Six of the cantusfirmi are borrowed from theSunday Easter Office, Matins, Lauds and Compline. The Kyrie and Patremare based on the Easter Introit, with the unity of the Mass derived fromthe thematic resemblance of several of them. In two manuscripts the text of thecantus firmi, sung by the first tenor, is copied complete and givenpriority over the text of the Ordinary of the Mass. In the other manuscriptsthe two texts are given one below the other or are differentiated by the colourof the ink.
As in the Missa deSeptem Doloribus, the style of Pierre de La Rue is characterized by thetaste for bicinia, alternating between lower and higher voices,imitation and canon, with a preference for lower vocal registers. Full musicalphrases provide counterpoint, sometimes with consecutive fifths. The four lowervoices are placed apart from the upper, creating incomplete chords, oftenwithout the third or the fifth, or leading to unisons or octaves.
Unlike the Masses ofPierre de La Rue, which are found generally in five sources, the motets ofwhich the attribution is almost certain are rarely found in more than two, thereason that some have not come down to us. Petrucci published some motets inanthologies among works by other composers. Of the eleven publications of thebeginning of the sixteenth century only one motet is signed 'Petrus de la Rue'.
Pater de caelis,Deus is not found in anymanuscript source. In six parts, it is freely composed, with a text based onresponses associated with the Trinity. Three voices are in canon at the fifthand at the ninth. Zarlino, in his Istitutioni harmoniche, mentions withadmiration this motet que face Pierre de La Rue a sei voce (which Pierrede La Rue made in six parts).
Vexilla Regis / Passio Domini, in four parts and inthe Dorian mode, is the only motet by de La Rue with two texts and theirplainchant. In the discantus, tenor and bassus is a hymn inhonour of the Holy Cross, written in 569 by Venantius Fortunatus (530-609),sung over the centuries at Vespers on Passion Sunday. The countertenor singstwo passages from the Gospel of St Matthew.
Translation: K. A.
It is clear that theHabsburgs particularly favoured the two Masses here recorded because theEmperor (or his representatives) repeatedly paid to have them copied intoornate large choirbooks, lavishly decorated with elaborately illuminatedinitial letters and miniatures. These expensive choirbooks were eithercollected by the court as anthologies of favourite Masses or were sent asimpressive gifts to powerful foreign allies such as Frederick the Wise or thePope. The Habsburgs felt that Pierre de La Rue's music should be sharedwith other courts, partly for artistic reasons and partly to enhance thecourt's international prestige. The present two Masses come from a total ofeight such choirbooks, each produced under the direction of the same headscribe/musician known as Alamire.
Although the Alamirechoirbooks have remarkably similar versions of these Masses, it appearsthat the best source for the five-part Miss