Counter-Reformation Music
  • So I'm planning music for a recital on the theme of the Counter-Reformation.

    Can anyone suggest music on that theme from before 1650 that is unmistakably Catholic and perhaps has a historical story linked to it? I'm trying not to do the obvious Palestrina Missa Papae Marcelli here.

    Ideas welcome!
  • Sing some Eucharistic Motets. That is the one thing that sets us apart from Reformed Christians (Protestants). Messiaen O Sacrum is a good idea, although it's kind of difficult. Any Ego Sum or something like that would be good, or Missa Pange Lingua by Josquin.
    Thanked by 1edward.yong
  • I'm teaching Byrd's Mass for Three Voices's Credo to a music student of mine right now. At the point at which the 4 Marks of the Church are sung, unam, sanctam gets one mention in each part, but Catholicam et Apostolicam gets the nod twice. Actually, in the highest voice, Catholicam gets repeated, and then Apostolicam gets repeated.
    Thanked by 1edward.yong
  • mmeladirectress
    Posts: 1,007
    Another thing that sets us apart from the protestants is honor given to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Maybe you could highlight a beautiful Ave Maria by Palestrina, or his Assumpta Est Maria (which says, Gaudete et exsultate omnes recti corde. Quia hodie Maria virgo cum Christo regnat in aeternum)
    Thanked by 1edward.yong
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,725
    I personally think that the musical dimensions of the Counter-Reformation were not so much dogmatically topical (Blessed Sacrament/BVM, et cet.) as an issue of the shifts embodied in the new orders (the Oratory of course leaps to mind; Jesuits - rather deliberately unmusical of themselves, but supported devotions and composers; et cet.), focus on development of lay spirituality as something distinct from monastic spirituality, and missionary expansion to new worlds and to recover regions in middle Europe. One could of course also see the reconstituted Church in England (Tallis and Byrd) in the proto-Marian reformation as another frontier.

    And then there's Venice which was somewhat aside from things Roman and where a certain freedom obtained because its major church was a palatine chapel rather than the diocesan cathedral. A freedom that turned out to be pivotal in the development of music, though not an unmixed blessing.
    Thanked by 2edward.yong CHGiffen
  • Jacob deKerle's pieces written specifically for the council of Trent.
  • MatthewRoth
    Posts: 1,773
    This isn’t the last word on the subject, but read Bossy, Christianity in the West & at least skim O’Malley, Trent and all that. Late medieval/early modern Catholicism work better to describe the 16th century.

    Borromeo was friends with Victoria FWIW.
    Thanked by 1edward.yong
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    My initial suggestion would be to steer clear of motets with text taken directly from the KJV.
  • Motets with texts taken from the KJV don't exist.
  • Oh, but they do!

    (Though they couldn't be labelled specifically 'counter-reformation'.)
    Thanked by 1CCooze
  • irishtenoririshtenor
    Posts: 1,264
    Wouldn't a motet with a KJV (English) text be properly called an anthem?
    Thanked by 1eft94530
  • Good question!

    It could be.
    It might often be.
    Anthem is not a concrete 'form' - far from it. And, it can be in any language. 'Anthem' may connote function and may, as a term, include sacred choral works that are and are not in definite musical forms or procedures. 'Anthem', after all, is a contraction of 'antiphon' and is sort of a 'catch all' word for a choral ornament to liturgy. Most any choral work that is deemed worthy of liturgical use might be listed in the service folder as an 'anthem' - even a motet.

    Motet, on the other hand, implies a certain procedure, specifically exhibiting imitative writing as well as other textures that may recall late mediaeval and renaissance-baroque practice. One might even say that motet, like fugue or ricercar, is not a 'form' at all, but a procedure. With this in mind there are innumerable motets written in English as well as other languages. They often function as 'anthems', or ornaments of liturgy. Many may be familiar with the motets of Eric Thiman, who wrote many of them (as did Willan and even Hovhaness) for use in Anglican liturgy. Many of the Tudor and early Stuart sacred choral works in English are certainly English motets, Gibbons' 'Almighty and everlasting God' being a handy and well-known example. Nor, it may be noted, did the English shrink from early on to the singing of English translations to motets that were originally in Latin.

    In short, a motet may be an anthem, but an anthem is not necessarily a motet.

    Thanks for asking that question. Others may have germane offerings on this very interesting topic.

    It occurs to me, further, that even the word 'motet' has not maintained universally its signification of early formal procedures and structures. One thinks of the later baroque French petit motets and grand motets which hardly hie structurally to what one would traditionally have called a 'motet'. Indeed, the grand motets have far more in common with the English verse anthem (it might even be argued that they each exhibit a shared pollination) than with the historic motet structure. So, like 'anthem', the French used 'motet' as a signifer of function, a choral liturgical ornament, or even an extra-liturgical concert spirituelle, rather than of form or structural procedure.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Let me rephrase: the Anglican works *could* be called motets, but they're never referred to as such. Ergo, works with AV texts are anthems not motets. To call them motets is not really helpful in this case.
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 1,259
    Let me rephrase: my advice would be to steer clear of any works whose texts quote the kvj (and other specifically Protestant versions of the Bible).
    As unhelpful or obvious as that may sound, I still haven't found a reason for the text of Tallis' "If Ye Love Me," when the KJV was not yet around.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,725
    The Coverdale Bible:

    John 14:
    15 Yf ye loue me, kepe my commaundementes.
    16 And I wyl praye the father, and he shal geue you another comforter, that he maye byde wt you for euer:
    17 euen ye sprete of trueth,
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,725
    For bonus background - here's Tyndale's rendering of those vv of John 14, just a few years before Coverdale:

    15 If ye love me kepe my comaundementes
    16 and I will praye the father and he shall geve you a nother comforter yt he maye byde with you ever
    17 which is the sprete of truthe


    the much later rendering in the Geneva Bible (1599), though I am not sure if my online source is anachronistic or contemporary in orthography:

    15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
    16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever,
    17 Even the Spirit of truth,


    way earlier, Wycliffe's rendering:

    15 If ye louen me, kepe ye my comaundementis.
    16 And Y schal preye the fadir, and he schal yyue to you another coumfortour,
    17 the spirit of treuthe,
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,481
    I have heard the term 'English Motet' but Anthem is more common. I agree with the idea that when referring to a Motet, we would normally be referring to a latin text. At least this is my experience in England...
    Thanked by 1edward.yong
  • CHGiffenCHGiffen
    Posts: 5,044
    Then, just to muddy the waters, there are the Bach Motets (all in German, not Latin):
      BWV 225 — Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied.
      BWV 226 — Der Geist hilft unsrer Schwachheit auf.
      BWV 227 — Jesu, meine Freude.
      BWV 228 — Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir.
      BWV 229 — Komm, Jesu, komm.
      BWV 230 — Lobet den Herrn, alle Heiden (Psalm 117)
      BWV 231 — Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren (spurious)
    Thanked by 1M. Jackson Osborn
  • At the current four-day choral workshop at Walsingham, which I have placed on another thread, we are singing a work by James MacMIllan dedicated to the Strathclyde University Chamber Choir entitled The Canticle of Zachariah, the text being St Luke 1.68-79 in English. It is from The Strathclyde Motets by Mr MacMillan. There is no end to the choral works in English which are in compositional procedure and structure motets, and they are often called just that. This is in addition to the French ceremonial 'motets' which I have 'exhibited' above, the Bach motets exhibited by Chuck immediately above, and countless other examples which, if one wished to take the time to list, would provide a catalogue of quite some length of motets in a variety of languages. Motet has long since ceased to be a Latin-tongued work featuring imitation, homophony, and hocket a la Victoria et al.

    The mass is the mass, regardless of what language it is celebrated in. A madrigal is a madrigal, whether it is an Italian one or an English one. A motet is a motet, regardless of its language. It is the sacred text, and the characteristic compositional procedures and treatment of text which make it such.

    Thanked by 2CHGiffen edward.yong
  • JL
    Posts: 171
    Bringing things back to the original question, what sort of forces are involved in this recital? Assuming it's a choral program, I would highly recommend the corpus of Philippine (i.e. Roman) or Savonarolan/Razzian (i.e. Florentine) laude, the vernacular (generally) strophic part-songs used in devotional exercises. If you have more instruments at your disposal, as well as singers who are comfortable as soloists, some of the proto-oratorio rep from the Roman or Naples Oratories (both in Latin and Italian) are quite charming. (Full disclosure: St. Philip Neri's musical legacy was my research topic for my master's degree. I could talk about it for a while) If you want to go in with all guns blazing, the series Das Chorwerk publishes a set of Te Deums with contrafacta, one of which is "Te Lutherum damnamus"--which may or may not be advisable.

    If it's a solo vocal recital, you can't go wrong with Domenico Mazzocchi's solo madrigal sacri. Garland Press publishes a multi-volume series (edited by Anne Schnoebelen) of Italian solo motets in facsimile, and there's plenty more good monody to go around. I'm partial to Banchieri and d'India.

    Let us know what you choose, and how it goes!
  • JL - those sound splendid!

    I have 6-8 singers. Instrumental forces are baroque violin, recorder, baroque flute, two violas da gamba, renaissance guitar, baroque guitar, lute, organ, harpsichord.

    I'll message you privately about the repertoire :D