Three from Hyperion

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Program: #17-20, Air Date: 05/08/17

The superb English label gives us the Binchois Consort with music for the 100 Years’ War, the Orlando Consort with the rise of English polyphony, and Cinquecento rediscovering Jean Guyot.

I. Beneath the Northern Star: the Rise of English Polyphony 1270-1430 (The Orlando Consort). Hyperion CD CDA 68132.


Much early English sacred music is notoriously difficult to date in better than general terms; nevertheless, this anthology can be said to cover just under two centuries, with the earliest piece dating from around the middle of the thirteenth century through to those by Dunstaple which seem unlikely to have been written after about 1430. Unsurprisingly, the variety of styles is wide, ranging from the distinctively English version of the Ars Antiqua through to the development of the so-called ‘contenance angloise’ which had so much influence on Continental music from the 1440s onwards.
Alleluia. Christo iubilemus, the oldest piece here, illustrates how chant could be extensively decorated for a festive occasion like Christmas. For most of the time, the underlying plainsong is sung by the tenor while the other two voices decorate around it. However, during the verse ‘Dies sanctificatus’ a further layer of elaboration is added as these voices slip in extra text, a practice known as troping. As a final touch, the liturgical portion of the piece is introduced by a lively section based on the rondellus principle, whereby phrases are sung three times in different permutations of voices.

Rondellus is recognized as a typically English technique, and seems to have been used over a significant period of time. Certainly it is still present in music from the manuscript which contains the short setting of Stella maris nuncuparis, which dates from somewhere around 1300 and seems to have emanated from Meaux Abbey. Here, however, the impression is simpler, with the repetitions and obsessively repeating cadences making for an almost hypnotic effect. This manuscript also includes more complex pieces, such as the double-texted motet Spiritus et alme / Gaude virgo salutata. Spiritus et alme is best known as a Marian addition to the Gloria and the voice which carries it follows a decorated version of its normal chant melody; the second text is associated with the Annunciation.

One of the most audible features of this repertory is the amount of parallel harmony—not merely the 6–3 chords which are regarded as typical of English music of the time, but also parallel fifths and octaves which suggest a more archaic style. These are particularly obvious in the conductus-like Ave mundi rosa, even though this is probably later than the previous two pieces. The text is divided in six paired verses, each pair set to the same music, a format which might suggest a parallel with the sequence.

Parallel harmonies also dominate the Kyrie Cuthberte prece, a setting which clearly emanates from Durham where the cult of St Cuthbert was especially strong. Its sole surviving manuscript presents intriguing performance problems; for example, the listener will be aware of a wealth of chromaticism reflecting manuscript accidentals which are difficult to interpret with complete certainty. Also, one would normally expect nine invocations, three for each of the Persons of the Trinity, whereas here the Holy Spirit only receives two; yet the structure of the manuscript appears to rule out further music which might have been lost. In any case, despite the natural structure of the text, its eight verses are grouped in pairs, each pair with the same music.

The earliest piece here with a definite ascription is the conspicuously showy isorhythmic motet Sub Arturo plebs / Fons citharizancium / [In omnem terram] by Alanus, which is also the only one so far to show significant Continental influence. As is normal with the genre, it is built up in layers from the tenor cantus firmus, with the two other voices carrying different but connected texts. In this case, the middle voice traces the story of music from the book of Genesis, through the theory of Pythagoras, Boethius and others, and the teaching of Pope Gregory the Great. Finally, in the text set to the top part, the composer lists outstanding English musicians of his time, amongst whom he modestly includes himself. Alanus stresses his own ingenuity in passages which involve intricate rhythmic interference between the voices.

At present, we cannot identify exactly who Alanus was, though he may have been the John Aleyn who was a chaplain in the court chapel of Edward III and who died in 1373. Assuming Sub Arturo plebs was written some time around 1370, that would place it as a natural forerunner of the isorhythmic music in the Old Hall Manuscript, by far the largest and most important surviving source of English sacred repertory from the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Of its nine isorhythmic motets, which date from perhaps forty or more years after Alanus, two follow here, Damett’s Salvatoris mater pia and Byttering’s En Katerine solennia, both clearly associated with Henry V.

Salvatoris mater pia / O Georgi Deo care / [Benedictus Mariae Filius] by Damett (?1389/90–1436/7) carries, in its top voice, a Marian text into which has been interpolated an intercession for Henry and, in its middle voice, a call on St George to pray for the protection of the English people. This fits well with what we know of the composer, whose name appears in royal household accounts during the campaign against the French. Though Byttering’s identity is more problematic, he is likely to have been close to court circles at much the same time. His motet En Katerine solennia / Virginalis concio / [Sponsus amat sponsam] sets texts about St Catherine over a cantus firmus based on a chant for her feast day, and is one of a group of pieces from the period which can be connected with that saint, the others being Dunstaple’s isorhythmic motet Salve scema sanctitatis and an anonymous Gloria based on the chant Virgo flagellatur. Presumably some or perhaps all three have connections with the marriage in 1420 of Henry and Catherine de Valois.

Despite the presence of various types of motet, the bulk of the Old Hall repertory consists of settings for the Ordinary of the Mass, and the enormous range involved bears witness to the rich mix of styles available at the time. At the simplest level, we find Chirbury’s Agnus Dei, one of four short surviving pieces by this shadowy composer. With its ancestry in old-fashioned conductus, this is representative of a body of so-called ‘English discant’ music, straightforward and moving largely in block chords; yet, archaic as it sounds, its curious chromaticism lends it a certain distinctiveness. Another common type is the so-called ‘cantilena’ style in which the three parts move freely against each other, but with a tendency for the top voice to take precedence. The Gloria by Gervays is typical, even if The New Grove writes it off rather brutally as ‘unpretentious but competent’. More substantial, perhaps, is Excetre’s Credo which, apart from its greater melodic and rhythmic enterprise, is one of the first settings to contrast two- and three-voice sections, a feature which soon became normal in English Mass movements. Though nothing is known for certain about either composer, both these works are entirely consistent with the main repertory of the manuscript.

At the extreme end of the Old Hall repertory lies a handful of self-consciously intricate settings, many of them by Leonel Power (?before 1385–1445), which recall the music of the late fourteenth-century French Mannerists. Apart from its unusually florid top line, parts of the particular setting of the Credo recorded here involve a remarkable degree of chromaticism, with the result that there are some very strange cadences—see, for example, the close at ‘ante omnia secula’, which is difficult to believe aurally, but seems the only way to interpret the manuscript. Immediately after this there is a passage where four short notes in the top voice run against three in the other two, to unsettling effect. The Gloria which follows avoids the eccentric chromaticism but sometimes surpasses the Credo in rhythmic complexity—see, for example, the second ‘Qui tollis’ where in the manuscript the composer supplemented the normal black and red with blue notation in order to indicate his intentions.

Quirky as these settings may seem, they are of course designed to show Leonel’s virtuosity as a composer. Elsewhere, we find that he cultivated most of the styles represented in Old Hall, right down to the simplest discant. Significantly though, he seems to have abandoned such excesses later in his career, following an unmistakable trend, perhaps beginning around 1420, towards an altogether smoother style. This is apparent in, for example, the elegant melodic lines, gentler rhythms and careful regulation of consonance which characterize the Gloria by Leonel’s more famous younger contemporary, John Dunstaple (c1390–1453). It is also instructive to compare Dunstaple’s isorhythmic motet Dies dignus / Demon dolens / Iste confessor with the earlier examples. The basic method may be similar—two voices, each having its own text, woven around a tenor which is repeated using decreasing note values. Gone, however, are the passages of metrical interference; instead, Dunstaple’s aim is clearly for refinement of flow, only minimally broken by local incidents. As with several of his isorhythmic motets, the words of Dies dignus honour a specific saint, here St Germanus of Auxerre, who had a notable influence on Christianity in fifth-century Britain. In particular, he was largely responsible for initiating the cult of St Alban, with whose eponymous city and abbey Dunstaple is known to have had close connections.

Hindsight shows that it was this new style which became recognized by Continental theorists as bringing about a general change in direction, particularly in the work of Dufay, Binchois and later composers. In this respect, perhaps the most advanced piece recorded here is the first of the two anonymous Credo settings which close this album. Added to the Old Hall Manuscript somewhat after its main repertory, it already exhibits most of the features associated with the mature mid-fifteenth-century English manner. Entirely typical are the gently undulating melodic lines and flexible rhythms, and the subtle interplay between the parts. As had become normal, the movement is divided into two main sections, the first in triple and the second in duple time with, as commonly happens, a return to triple time at the very end. In order to facilitate smoothness of effect, the setting is predominantly melismatic rather than syllabic; and, so that the piece does not become excessively long, the text is telescoped, different sections being sung at the same time.

To complete this anthology, we return to the main part of the Old Hall Manuscript (though supplemented, because of a lost page, from a source associated with Fountains Abbey) for another anonymous Credo setting. On the most obvious level, this is an invigorating setting full of the sort of jaunty rhythms found in Excetre’s Credo; however, after a brief canonic opening for the two high voices, the bulk of the piece is built around an intriguing structural device based on the Latin inscription attached to the tenor part. Essentially, this decrees that its three sets of six notes are to be sung first as they stand, then in reverse, and finally again as written. Since the piece is isorhythmic, the entire process is repeated but with the note-values halved. If this all sounds rather cerebral and not the sort of thing that the average listener would hear, we might remember that the unknown composer would have expected an all-knowing deity to approve his ingenuity. As would be true with the rest of this collection, he would surely have regarded his artifice as part of the process of glorifying God.

1. ANON: Alleluia. Christo Jubilemus [3.07]
2. ANON: Stella maris nuncuparis [1.42]
3. ANON: Spiritus et alme/ Gaude virgo saliutata [1.37]
4. ANON: Ave mundi rosa [4.24]
5. ANON: Kyrie Cuthberte prece [4.26]
6.Johannes ALANUS (fl.c1390-1410) Sub Arcturo plebs/Fons citharizancium [4.49]
7. Thomas DAMETT (c.1389-1437) Salvatoris mater pia/O Georgi Deo care [4.51]
8. BYTTERING (fl.c1410-1425) En Katerina solennia/Virginalis concio [3.32]
9. Robert CHIRBURY (c.1380-1454) Agnus dei [2.06]
10. GHERVAYS (fl.c1400) Gloria [3.25]
11. John EXCETRE (fl.c.1410) Credo [7.25]
12. Lionel POWER (d.1445) Credo [7.22]
13 Gloria [4.22]
14. John DUNSTAPLE (c.1390-1453) Dies dignus/ Demon dolens/Iste confessor [5.17]
15. Gloria [3.43]
16. ANON: (Old Hall) Credo a 3 [6.30]
17. ANON: (Old Hall) Credo a 4 [3.37]

II. Music for the 100 Years’ War: A brief history in Music & Alabaster (The Binchois Consort/Andrew Kirkman). Hyperion CD CDA 68170.

Music The 100 Years War Binchois Consort Kirkman Hyperion

This album celebrates in musical guise the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt, fought on 25 October 1415. In doing so it also casts its net wider, embracing other aspects and events of the epic Hundred Years’ War (begun under Edward III), of which Agincourt formed but one part—albeit a heroic and iconic part. The lively topicality of the two bookend carols—the historically evocative Anglia tibi turbidas, and the still familiar Agincourt Carol—set the context for a repertory of Latin sacred musicfor the royal chapels, some of it very likely performed in France by the professional singers and chaplains whom Henry V insisted on taking with him on campaign.
These compositions—and the wider repertory from which they are drawn—demonstrate vividly the energy and drive, the sheer colour and variety of the English repertoire at this juncture in national and European history. The programme naturally involves the most prominent musicians of the first half of the fifteenth century, whose very names formed an illustrious ornament of the great princely chapels: Leonel Power and John Dunstaple foremost among them. But a striking feature of the culture of English polyphony at this time is precisely its strength in depth—and we also feature works by the gifted yet shadowy ‘Forest’, along with a number of striking anonymous pieces.

Henry V’s enormous retinue on campaign included not only an extended secular entourage covering all the usual and expected needs, but also a fully functioning liturgical and musical chapel, with clerics, chaplains and singers, accompanied as they must have been by all their service and music books. This active mixture of the sacred with the secular may surprise us today, but was typical of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century royal image-creation, and nowhere more sophisticatedly so than in the glittering, if tautly controlled, court of Henry V. In this, as in other areas of the business of kingship, Henry organized his affairs with his signature sense of princely determination and precision, with a keen eye for both detail and cohesion.

Our musical choices have fallen on pieces that can plausibly be associated, in various ways, with some of the contexts and events of the campaign itself, and with the ensuing English occupation of Normandy and other areas of northern France. Given the performing resources Henry had taken with him on campaign, musical elaboration would have been on hand to suit any ceremonial or ritual need or eventuality. We may readily appreciate that the sophisticated, often structurally complex and musically demanding compositions of this great artistic tradition thus describe a world in which music and politics, ritual performance and aristocratic self-image, were all closely conjoined.

Leaving aside the bespoke music used for specific, high-profile ceremonial occasions, there was also a substantial body of English music available for routine chapel performance, wherever the royal entourage happened to be, just as would have been the case in England, both at fixed royal residences and collegiate foundations, and for peregrinations around the realm. Our groups of pieces on this album, with their explanatory section titles, illustrate some of the specialized themes and the uses to which such music would have been put—for celebration, invocation, and solemnization.

Our selection of topics embraces the symbolism of kingship, nationhood and national origins; the invocation of eminent national saints, especially kingly ones; and the ritual significance of official ceremonial of different kinds, including dynastic events, treaties, coronations and so forth. The English Chapel Royal—and later, the chapels of Henry’s brothers, the Dukes of Clarence and Bedford—left a distinct musical imprint on northern France, and on the chapels of their noble Burgundian counterparts, underscoring once more the political structures and encounters that enabled the celebrated and unparalleled spread of English musical influence across Europe at this time (including also through the momentous Council of Konstanz, convened between 1414 and 1418).

Kingship and the Rise of Nation
Margaret Bent is currently elaborating a persuasive reassessment of the genesis of Sub Arturo plebs, the famous ‘musicians’ motet’ that frames a roll-call of English singers prominent at the time of its composition. According to this new perspective on its origins, the motet is not, as used to be thought, a fourteenth-century work but is in fact roughly contemporary with other structurally elaborate music of Henry V’s chapel as it was being composed in and around the 1410s (our thanks to Dr Bent for her ideas and her edition of this work, and to David Howlett for his translation of its texts). In this interpretation ‘Arthur/ Arcturus’ (the North Star) would be identified again directly with Henry V, certainly a worthy subject for the text’s claim that ‘the military flourishes with the clergy’. An exceptional piece, even by the high standards of English music circa 1400 and later, this virtuoso composition is one of the more complex and tautly controlled ‘isorhythmic’ motets of the period. It is a brilliant and exuberant tour de force of textual and musical invention that drives through to an exhilarating conclusion.

Important to the careful balance of Henry’s kingship was the good order of the Church at large, and more particularly of his own household chapel, to whose musical and liturgical staffing he gave close attention. Its dignified ceremonial and the devotional stance it represented formed a crucial part of his sense of monarchy and the state under God. A contemporary chronicle stipulates the ‘discanting’ of the antiphon Ascendit Christus super celos in the second memorial after Mass in the Chapel Royal, specifically to commemorate and celebrate the Assumption of the Virgin. Since Henry V had ordered performance of a daily antiphon to the Assumption in response to his brother John Duke of Bedford’s great naval victory in the Battle of the Seine on the Feast of the Assumption, 15 August 1416, and since no other contemporary motet on Ascendit Christus survives, it is reasonable to assume that it was precisely this setting by Forest that fulfilled that need—very clearly, it could have done. Unlike many of the elaborate occasional pieces performed here, this lovely work takes the form of a gentler, more lyrical ‘anthem’ involving two voices moving as a duo above a freely rhythmicized setting in the tenor of the Marian antiphon Alma redemptoris mater.

Dedicated ostensibly and primarily to John the Baptist, Dunstaple’s Preco preheminencie surely also celebrates that other John, Henry’s brother the Duke of Bedford, and his rout of the French navy in 1416. Known otherwise only from its stipulation for the Chapel Royal’s memorial to St John the Baptist, aspects of the text of this motet are strongly suggestive: while its primary force is directed to the saintly John, the herald (preco) who preceded Christ, it is also easily susceptible to reading in reference to the actions of his fifteenth-century namesake in leading the English navy to victory and thereby ‘preparing a way’ for his kingly brother. The motet might well have been sung in Canterbury Cathedral in August 1416, in the presence of Henry and Emperor Sigismund, after the conclusion between them of the Treaty of Canterbury (though it seems perhaps unlikely that so sophisticated and intricate a piece could have been composed in such short order directly for this occasion).

St Thomas Becket—Protector of England
The Lancastrian kings cultivated a cluster of saints, dubbed by us ‘protectors of England’, whose veneration was of long royal tradition. There were first and foremost kingly saints such as Edward the Confessor and St Edmund, who complemented the other native English saints and national figureheads such as Thomas Becket, John of Bridlington, and St George (for the latter two see The Binchois Consort’s Music for Henry V and the House of Lancaster).

Becket (‘St Thomas of Canterbury’) was without doubt the pre-eminent English saint on the European stage throughout the high and later Middle Ages. As such, he projected as strong an image of the nation, spiritually and emblematically, as did St George in the military and chivalric sphere. There were of course many other venerated saints and many important saints’ shrines in England; but the Becket tradition was ubiquitous and stretched far and wide, the length and breadth of Europe.

This group of pieces in Becket’s honour interleaves Mass movements by Leonel Power with two striking—and strikingly contrasted—motets of the fourteenth century. It begins with a rare survival from an Oxford manuscript (New College MS 362; inscribed ‘De sancto Thoma Cantuarie’): the brilliant Ianuam quam clauserat / Iacintus in saltibus / [Iacet granum], which is constructed over the famous and much-used plainchant Iacet granum (the third responsory at Matins for the saint’s feast day, 29 December). The magnificent Gloria and Credo comprise a pair of isorhythmic movements each constructed on a different Lauds antiphon for the same feast, respectively Ad Thome memoriam (Gloria) and Opem nobis, o Thoma (Credo), this latter being the antiphon to the Benedictus.

In the sublime Credo ‘Opem nobis’, both the chant scaffolding, in the lowest voice, and the two elaborative upper parts, are treated with the utmost delicacy by Power. The chant is paraphrased in long notes at the opening of each section, underpinning the texture. However, it often suddenly increases in rhythmic intensity in its brief duets with the contratenor when the upper voice rests. This texture, in alternation with duetting discantus and contratenor above a slow-moving tenor, enables Power to derive the maximum textural interest from the three voices he employs.

For this recording the text has been largely reset, using a distinctively English practice known as telescoping which may have been applied in Power’s original version. This produces, as with a polytextual motet, a counterpoint of text and voice which can enable the lengthy ritual texts of the Credo to be dispatched more succinctly than would otherwise be the case. In this instance, it allows for a more extended, melismatic character within the upper two voices which in contrast are very syllabic in their sole surviving source. Combined with Power’s skilful control of texture, this gives a greater rhetorical power to the brief sections in which only a single text is heard, the otherwise dense counterpoint of texts briefly coalescing into unified declamation.

Dividing these two Mass movements is a Vespers plainsong antiphon for the Magnificat, Pastor cesus, followed by a brief fourteenth-century polytextual motet constructed on a tenor derived from the first phrase of the same chant, supporting two upper voices which set, respectively, the Opem nobis text once more and the text of a second Magnificat antiphon, Salve, Thoma.

1 Anglia tibi turbidas ANON [5'44]
2 Sub Arturo plebs ALANUS (fl late 14th century) [4'03]
3 Ascendit Christus super celos
FOREST (fl 1400–1450) [5'00]
4 Preco preheminencie DUNSTAPLE (c1390–1453) [5'45]
5 Ianuam quam clauserat ANON [1'43]
6 Gloria ‘Ad Thome memoriam’ POWER (d1445) [3'49]
7 Pastor cesus in gregis medio CHANT [1'08]
8 Opem nobis, o Thoma ANON [0'40]
9 Credo ‘Opem nobis, o Thoma’ POWER [4'33]
10 De flore martyrum ANON [1'45]
11 Ave miles ANON [1'47]
12 Gaude martyr FOREST [4'11]
13 Ecce mitto angelum CHANT [3'04]
Missa Da gaudiorum premia DUNSTAPLE [18'40]
14 Kyrie rex genitor [6'52]
15 Credo [5'04]
16 Sanctus [6'44]
17 Veni Sancte Spiritus DUNSTAPLE [5'16]
18 The Agincourt Carol ANON [3'42]
19 Kyrie … Domine miserere – Ab inimicis nostris ANON [5'35]

III. Jean Guyot (?1520-1588). (Cinquecento). Hyperion CD CDA 68180.

CDA68180 - Guyot: Te Deum laudamus & other sacred music

Jean Guyot, alias Castileti—priest, composer, author, teacher—was a leading light in mid-sixteenth century Liège, and known in the wider Habsburg Empire. He has left us twenty-six motets, a Mass, a Te Deum and sixteen chansons, largely published by Susato and Gardano. His music is typical of the post-Josquin generation, employing imitative, full choral textures, but displays an individual imagination. The works recorded here represent a cross section of his composing life, from the earliest pieces published in Liège, through his short stay in Vienna, to his ‘retirement’ back in the city where he spent most of his professional life.
Guyot’s exact birthdate is unknown. A document of 1588 indicates his age as sixty-six. However, by that reckoning, at his matriculation into the University of Louvain in 1534 he would have been twelve, which caused Clement Lyon to suggest an error of ten years, giving a year of birth of 1512, which has often been cited. Bénédicte Even-Lassmann argues that twenty-two is an equally unlikely age to enter the university, and that, to a man of sixty-six, what are a couple of years? Therefore her suggestion is around 1520, and we must be satisfied with that.

He was born into a comfortably wealthy family in the town of Châtelet, a provincial centre in the Principality of Liège. This origin gives him a name by which he was often known—‘Castileti’. The town’s cultural life was lively, with a Society of Saint Cecilia, Easter processions featuring a children’s choir, and instrumentalists engaged to celebrate the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, patrons of the church. There were also a Chamber of Rhetoric and regular Passion Plays. We do not have certain details of Guyot’s early education but he was admitted to the ancient and eminent University of Louvain in 1534.

On arriving at Louvain Guyot was exposed to the full range of the liberal arts, studying logic, grammar, eloquence, metaphysics, moral philosophy and theology. The university felt strongly the influence of Erasmus, and retained a strong Catholic spirit in the face of the Lutheran Reformation. It also held an annual thesis competition—Guyot’s was entered on 5 December 1536, and placed twenty-second out of 108.

We lose sight of our composer after the result of this competition was announced on 22 March 1537. The date and location of his ordination are unknown. There have been suggestions, based on possible attributions of published works, of time spent in France or Italy, but these are speculative. Certain financial transactions relating to the family estate place him in Liège from around 1541, but we have little information on his activities.

In 1546 he was appointed chaplain and succentor at the Collegiate Church of St Paul in Liège. This was fertile ground for a musician. Architecturally and administratively, it was a city dominated by the church. At St Paul’s there was a college of twenty-two chaplains, and it was possessed of a magnificent library. It is from this period that we have the first of Guyot’s published works: five motets published by Susato in 1546 and 1547. The same publisher also issued a number of chansons by Guyot in 1549 and 1550, and went on to include eight motets in his Ecclesiasticarum Cantionum volumes from 1553 to 1555. None of these motets is written for more than five voices, perhaps giving an indication of the musical resources available to him at the time.

The breadth of Guyot’s literary and artistic interests is evidenced by the publication by Baethen of Maastricht in 1554 of Minervalia, dedicated to George of Austria, Prince-Bishop of Liège. It is a Latin dialogue in seven acts between the seven liberal arts, the nine muses, and Ignorance, Egotism, Discord and Envy. It draws on Greek, Latin, ecclesiastical and more modern authors to establish the role of the arts in lifting humanity from the darkness, and music’s role in this is challenged, and vindicated.

In 1558, buoyed by a strong reputation based on twenty-six published works, Guyot moved from St Paul’s to the Cathedral of Saint Lambert in Liège. He replaced Zacarias Gransyre as maître de chant, responsible for running the music of the cathedral and educating the choristers. These were known as ‘duodeni’ as they could be twelve in number, though the force varied between seven and twelve. They were generally children of modest origins, and were fortunate to receive a privileged education, funded by many legacies, and often went on to be supported through university. In addition there were two priest-musicians, or ‘intonateurs’, and singers employed to provide the lower parts in polyphony. Guyot added to his role of maître de chant that of premier intonateur from 1559 to 1561 when he was able to pass the duties to his pupil Jean de Chaynée. He was also, on 24 April 1558, appointed rector of the imperial altar of Saint Lambert.

In 1563 Guyot moved to the centre of life in the Habsburg Empire—the Imperial Court in Vienna. He had been given leave to travel by the chapter of Saint Lambert in July 1563, and was replaced as succentor by Nicholas Douhaer. Guyot’s predecessor in Vienna, Pieter Maessens, had died on 10 December 1562 (according to research by H Leuchtmann). The first record we have of Guyot in the city is from 1 September 1563; what occurred in the eight months between these dates is unknown. He was accompanied in Vienna by two other singers from Liège, Adam da Ponta and Jean de Chaynée—musicians from the Low Countries held a commanding place in the chapels of the Habsburg Empire at that time.

In Vienna he had access to a much larger musical foundation than at Liège. This difference can easily be seen in his published works from both periods. Up to this point the motets we have, published by Susato, are for no more than five voices. However, the works published by Gardano which can be dated to Guyot’s Vienna sojourn, are predominantly for eight voices, with several for six, and one for twelve. In addition it is from this period that we have his sole surviving Mass, the Missa Amour au cœur. It is a parody Mass based on a chanson by Clemens non Papa, and is written for eight voices in the main, but with an additional four employed for the final section. This period was clearly an extremely productive one for Guyot, and saw him taking full advantage of the musical resources at his disposal.

Unfortunately his stay was to be brief. Ferdinand I died on 25 July 1564, and by 31 August of that year, Guyot was without employment at the court. The new Emperor, Maximilian II, disbanded the existing chapel and installed his own. Guyot was granted a pension, though a reduced one, and due to an earlier intervention by Ferdinand I he still had a prebend at Saint Lambert in Liège as an imperial chaplain, alongside his family income. He returned to that city and appears in various records, though his precise activities are unclear. We have just one manuscript composition, the Te Deum laudamus, from this final period, and he died in 1588.

Amen, amen dico vobis, the earliest work recorded here and among Guyot’s earliest published pieces, is one of two of his works in Tielman Susato’s 1546 Liber Primus Sacrarum Cantionum. This collection of five-part motets, printed in Antwerp, contained works by a number of composers including Clemens non Papa, Pierre de Manchicourt and Thomas Crecquillon. It is imitative and melismatic in style, with the melodic material sung on ‘Alleluia’ common to the ends of the first and second sections. This is a technique for marrying the parts of a piece together which we see in several of Guyot’s works.

Between 1553 and 1557 Susato brought out a monumental collection of works, beginning with Liber Primus Ecclesiasticarum Cantionum and running for fifteen volumes. Whilst the last of these was dedicated solely to the music of Orlande de Lassus, the rest was a collection of motets by a range of composers, with a certain preference for Flemish contributors. Eight works by Guyot were included across the collection; five of them are included here.

Prudentes virgines has an unusually long text taken from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 25, the famous parable of the wise and foolish virgins. Guyot handles this verbosity with contrasts of imitative and chordal writing, often highlighting important moments in the text. The most notable of these is a homophonic declamation of the word ‘Vigilate’ (‘Keep watch’) towards the end of the work. There are many other felicitous moments of word-setting such as the urgent and starkly delineated rhythm on ‘Domine, aperi nobis’ (‘Lord, open for us’) and the lengthened values and smooth lines of ‘dormitaverunt omnes’ (‘they all became sleepy’). Unity is provided across the work by a symmetrical structure, with each part having a triple-time section flanked by duple-time passages. In both halves the inner sections represent pivotal moments in the story, giving the work a remarkable sense of dramatic shape.

Whilst the texts for Guyot’s motets are largely taken from the Bible or liturgical sources, the words of O florens rosa come from neither, but are a devotional prayer, like the second part of Te Deum Patrem. It is in praise of the Virgin Mary, suitable for any of her various feast days. The motet was printed in the seventh book of Susato’s Ecclesiasticarum Cantionum and is in an entirely imitative style, with an extended cadence.

In Noe, noe, genuit puerpera the imitative delivery of the text is punctuated by exclamations of ‘Noe, noe’, sometimes by a single voice in a brief declamation, sometimes in an extended melisma, and occasionally forming a small point of imitation in itself. This use of the festive expostulation is part of a tradition that can be seen in motets and chansons by Jacob von Brouck, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck and the poet Clément Marot.

Te Deum Patrem;
O florens rosa;
Amen, amen dico vobis;
Accepit Jesus panem;
Prudentes virgines;
Omni temore benedic Deum;
Adorna thalamum;
Noe, noe, genuit puerpera;
Ave Maria...Signum magnum;
Te Deum laudamus

Composer Info

Johannes ALANUS (fl.c1390-1410), Thomas DAMETT (c.1389-1437) , BYTTERING (fl.c1410-1425), Robert CHIRBURY (c.1380-1454), GHERVAYS (fl.c1400), John EXCETRE (fl.c.1410) , Lionel POWER (d.1445) , John DUNSTAPLE (c.1390-1453), Jean Guyot (?1520-1588)

CD Info

CD CDA 68132, CD CDA 68170, CD CDA 68180.