Machaut’s Motets & the Blessed Henry Suso–The Transition from Late Medieval to the Renaissance

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Program: #07-17    Air Date: Apr 16, 2007

Thanks to the work of Anne Walters Robertson, we have an amazing theory--that the motets 1-17 of Machaut form a vast cycle on the aspects of spiritual love as delineated by the popular mystic and Dominican friar, Blessed Henry Suso in his treatise "Wisdom's Watch Upon the Hours"--and with two recent recordings, we can track these astounding works.

Our guide will be long-time Millennium guest and chant expert, Fr. Jerome Weber, early music critic of Fanfare magazine.  In each case, the comments in italics are from Fr. Weber. 

I. Motets--Guillaume de Machaut


(Hilliard Ensemble).  ECM NEW SERIES CD # 1823 (B0001859-02).The complete works of Guillaume de Machaut, (c. 1300-1377) compiled by the composer himself and preserved in several sumptuous manuscripts, have still not been recorded in their entirety. The Messe de Notre Dame is the work best represented on disc and has been the subject of several recent books. Of all the shorter fixed forms, only the 3 motets have now been recorded. The most thorough discussion of the motets can be found in Anne Walters Robertson’s recent book, Guillaume de Machaut and Reims (Cambridge, 2002). In the substantial middle section of this book, Prof. Robertson shows that motets 1-17 form a cycle on the spiritual aspect of love based on a popular mystical treatise of a contemporary Dominican friar, Blessed Henry Suso, titled “Wisdom’s Watch upon the Hours.” The Latin-texted motet 9 occupies the central point in this cycle, eight French motets leading up to it, eight more French motets returning. The other six motets are unrelated.


--De souspirant cuer ("With sighing, suffering heart").

--Fine Amour, qui me vint navrer ("True love, who came to pierce me").

--Puis que la douce rousee ("Because pity does not wish").

--Qui plus aimme ("He who loves most").

--Lasse! je sui en aventure ("Alas! I am in danger!").

--Ha! Fortune ("Ah! Fortune, I am far from port").

--O livoris feritas ("O savageness of envy").

--Helas! ou sera pris confors ("Alas, where shall comfort be?").

--Fine cuers dous ("Sweet noble heart").

--Eins que ma dame d'onneur ("Before my honored lady").

--Faus Samblant m'a deceu ("False Seeming has deceived me").

--Se j'aim mon loyal ami ("If I love my faithful friend").

--Bone pastor ("Good shepherd").

--Diligenter inquiramus ("Let us diligently seek out").

--Biaute paree de valour ("Beauty adorned with worth").

--Veni creator spiritus ("Come, Creator Spirit").

--Plange, regni respublica ("Weep, commonwealth of the kingdom").

--Inviolata genitrix ("Inviolate Mother, beloved conqueress of pride").



 II. Guillaume de Machaut--Les motets


 ( Ensemble Musica Nova).  Zig-Zag Territoires CD # ZZT 021002. The Hilliard Ensemble sang 18 of the 23 motets, unaccompanied. On another program Ensemble Musica Nova sing all 23 motets, but three are not sung as written and others are accompanied by instruments. Yet we can hear four other motets from their collection. (It may be noted that the one missing motet, no. 14, has only one recording by Cantos, a large vocal ensemble of Osnabrück Cathedral, a far cry from these vocal ensembles with one voice to a part. But it is interesting because the choir begins with the chant antiphon Anima mea, and as it reaches the last phrase, “quia amore langueo,” which is the tenor of the motet, the choir sings Machaut’s motet.) All works are by Machaut:


--Amara valde ("Love and perfect beauty make me fear").

--Et gaudebit cor vestrum ("Thy heart shall rejoice").

--Libera me ("Set me free").

--Super omnes speciosa (Fair above all").


Composer Info

Guillaume de Machaut, (c. 1300-1377), Johannes Ciconia, Solage (fl. 1380s), Guillaume Dufay (1397-1474), Antoine Busnois (c. 1430-1492), NICOLAES CRAEN (d. 1507), ADRIAN WILLAERT (c.1490-1562), JACQUES or NICHOLAS CHAMPION, NOEL BAULDEWEYN,

CD Info

CD # 1823, CD # ZZT 021002, CD #AV 2089, CD #ZZT 050301, #HMU 907333, #CDA 67183,

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