Lent V – 13 March, 2016

Victoria – Asperges Me
Manchicourt : Missa “Surge et Illinare”
Clemens : Fremuit spiritus Jesus

1510 was a tumultuous year for the Roman Catholic Church. The Papal states were at war with France and the scene was set for a famous diplomat: Florence sent Niccolò Machiavelli to France. Into this cauldron of religious fervour two great composers appeared: Pierre de Manchicourt from northern France and Jacobus Clemens from what is now Belgium.

Manchicourt worked in France before settling in Spain, his music changed as he heard new techniques and incorporated them into his music. Although Clemens was, perhaps jokingly, called “not the pope”, he never visited Italy and he lived most of his life close to his birth place.

This week we don’t hear the difference between the music of the north and the south in the European of the 16th century; rather we hear the youthful exuberance of the young Manchicourt – the “Missa Surge et illuminare” was published before he was 25 – contrasted with the music of the mature Clemens – the motet “Fremuit spiritu Jesus” was published just 2 years before his untimely murder in 1556.

Both composers ‘fill the page’ with notes; the gap between imitative entries is short; and the rest they allow the singers is as short as possible.

In Clemens setting of the Raising of Lazarus, the second part repeats Jesus’ call ‘Lazarus come out!’ whilst the story unfolds around them. In the first part we are taken, with Jesus, to where he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. In the second part he shares his sorrow with the sisters of Lazarus but we end with the uplifting command of Jesus. Clemens adds to the emotional text with many complex and ambiguous harmonies. This motet was clearly much loved; two years after its publication around the time of Clemens’ death, Lassus wrote a motet on the same text with clear references to his predecessors’ setting.

By contrast, Manchicourt’s setting of the mass contains few accidentals and the chords are clear and the mode a very decisive Hypodorian. As befits a mass based on the Advent text of ‘Arise, shine, for your light has come’, the Agnus Dei ends, like the Clemens, with an uplifting final cadence.