Videntes, the superb schola cantorum of the Church of the Epiphany, Washington, DC, led by Jeremy Filsell, sings a Mass and motets of Christóbal de Morales (1500-1553). The Morales Mass is based on a song, Mille Regretz, by Josquin des Prés. Filsell plays three organ pieces by Antonio de Cabezón, including one based on a tune by Josquin, on a portative pipe organ built for Epiphany in 2014 by Orglarstvo Škrabl of Slovenia.
Cristóbal de Morales: Missa Mille Regretz, Tu es Petrus, Veni Domine, Pastores Dicite, Magnificat Secundi Toni
Josquin des Prés: Chanson, Mille Regretz
Organ: AntoinioCabezŹŹón: Differencias sobre el canto del Cauallero, Motete glosado Ave Maria de Josquin des Prés, Benedictus de la missa l’homme arme
Notes on the Music
The music of Cristóbal de Morales (ca. 1500-1553) is today much less well known than are works by his fellow Spaniard Tomás Luis de Victoria, who along with Francisco Guerrero form the triumvirate of greats of the what musicologist Robert Stevenson called the “golden age” of Spanish Renaissance music. Ironically, though Morales was internationally respected because of his work in the Papal chapel and the prints of his music issued in several countries, he is also the least well documented of the three prolific Spanish composers in terms of his early life and several periods of his career. This lack of knowledge is highly unfortunate given that his music is in some ways even more significant for the history of music in Spain than that of either Guerrero and Victoria; Morales is perhaps the most important composer in Spain’s transition from an insular country before 1520 to one that participated fully in the international trends of Renaissance music. Morales’ music displays a unique synthesis of the earlier Spanish traditions with the brilliant techniques and expressive potential created by Josquin and other Franco- Flemish composers who had dominated the international scene in the fifteenth century.
Much of what can be suggested about Morales’ training is based on the typical lives of Church musicians: their education as choirboys and work in the daily liturgical life of cathedrals and other institutions, where each young musician would sing many hours each week in the various services, including masses, the daily office “hours,” as well as numerous special events. Though little is certain, Morales’ music suggests a profound knowledge of liturgy, sacred texts, and the traditions of Spain and Rome, the two “poles” that would define his life and art; he also seems to have been quite well versed in the Latin language. Based on his later statements, as seen below, this training occurred in Seville.
In the 1544 edition of his masses issued by the printer Dorico in Rome, he conspicuously proclaims himself “Christoforus Morales Hyspalensis” in the opening dedication, and the label is repeated in the banner attribution of each work. A number of other documents refer to him as a “Hispalense,” person of the region of Seville, one of the great cities in the region of Andalusia in southern Spain. In the years that defined his childhood, 1495-1510, Seville was undergoing a vast transformation, including work on its immense Cathedral. The city was considered the gateway for travel to the recently contacted “new world;” all ships destined for the expanding Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere disembarked from Seville, making the city flush with trade and royal investments. In the sixteenth century, residents of Seville, like all people in what we call Spain today, identified more closely with their city or region than any national identity though that term must be taken loosely in all areas of Europe during this era. Despite the recent unification of most of present-day Spain by the Catholic “kings” Isabella and Fernando— respectively her crown of Castile (of which Andalusia was a part) and his crown of Aragon —residents of Seville, like those of Toledo, Segovia, etc., were quite proud of their city’s own traditions, both religious including music and civic, maintained by such central institutions as the Cathedral; this of course also makes the use of terms like “Spaniard” or “Spanish” composer (as opposed to a designation like “Hispalense”) very loose during Morales’ time. Seville, like other cities in Spain and the cities then growing in the new world, had many institutions with important traditions in sacred music. Though these institutions—parish churches, houses of the religious, the university, and other bodies—are less well known today than the Cathedral, they helped create an extraordinary musical life, a soundscape of daily liturgies and special events with many trained singers and instrumentalists who worked together on projects such as royal visits, weddings, funerals, memorial rites, etc.
Morales clearly wanted his connection to the city known, but it is not possible to verify any specifics about his early life there. Musicologist Juan Ruiz Jiménez, who has done extensive research in several institutions in Seville, found no archival documents giving information on Morales’ early life and no definitive references to his having been a choirboy at the Cathedral. He likely would have known the older singer and composer Pedro Fernández de Castilleja, who may have worked at the Cathedral of Seville from as early as 1497. Fernández would later teach and work alongside Guerrero for decades. Although few works by the seemingly prolific Fernández survive today, several of his extant pieces, including his setting of the traditional Marian antiphon Salve Regina, display features also found in Morales’ music, including a mix of earlier Spanish characteristics, strict incorporation of chant melodies, as well as passages in a chordal style. Fernández, in some motets, would also use extensive passages of “points of imitation,” the counterpoint technique that, by 1500, was a defining feature in music by Josquin and other Franco-Flemish composers.
Another Spaniard whose music Morales almost certainly knew is Francisco de Peńalosa, one of the great composers active in the years 1500-1520. Peńalosa lived in Seville intermittently before going to work in Rome from 1517 to 1521, after which he returned to the Andalusian city to live until his death in 1528. Like Fernández, Peńalosa included both earlier Iberian styles as well as the more current international techniques used by Northern composers like Josquin. Peńalosa incorporated contrapuntal techniques such as points of imitation and texture changes to create some of the most expressive works composed in Spain during his lifetime; these motets and shorter liturgical forms such as his Ave Regina would prefigure the power and technique of Morales’ later compositions. Peńalosa also foreshadows the younger composer’s skill at writing polyphonic masses, which had become the most important large form in which composers demonstrated their skill by connecting the “movements” (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei) through repeating various musical motives and other techniques. Morales likely sang works by Peńalosa that, based on manuscript provenance, seem to have been known in Seville, as well as works by other fine older composers active in Spain such as Pedro de Escobar and Juan de Anchieta. By participating in liturgical performance, Morales would have gained knowledge of much repertoire current in Spain during his youth, music by both Spaniards and the Northern composers.
Morales may have remained in Seville as a young adult, freelancing as an organist and singer, but as was typical, he sought fulltime employment after he reached maturity. In 1526, when he had likely been ordained a priest, he was awarded a post as choirmaster in the Cathedral of Avila, where he stayed for only three years before moving to a job in Plascencia in 1529. He left that city in 1532, but his whereabouts are unknown until 1534 when he was mentioned as being in Rome in the circle of Fernando de Silva, Count of Cifuentes. Morales joined the Papal chapel in 1535 and remained a member until 1545, though he was given a sabbatical, as was the custom after five years, and returned to visit Spain in 1540; illnesses of some unknown kind would frequently mar his time in Rome as years passed. In 1545, Morales was again given leave by the Papal chapel but then took the post of chapel master at the Cathedral of Toledo, arguably the most important ecclesiastical center in Spain. His salary, however, was far less than he had received in Plascencia years before; he would not stay long in Toledo and sought employment in his home region of Andalusia, where he worked first for the Duke of Arcos in Marchena, 1548-1551, and then served as chapel master in Malaga from 1551 until his death in 1553. His last job seems to have been an unhappy situation since Morales had many unpleasant responsibilities; he was actively seeking to return to Toledo during the last months of his life though his former employers seem to have been less than eager to have him back. Such troubles with various jobs were not uncommon among gifted composers, since, as often remains the case today, too, in many cities the post of chapel master placed greater value on management skills, organizing, and teaching choirboys than on talents in composition and musical interpretation.
The works heard on this recording display Morales’ mature combination of contrapuntal technique and international style distinct from Spanish traditions. The motet Tu es Petrus, based on an responsory for the feast day of the Apostles Peter and Paul, June 29, begins with a distinct imitative “point” drawn from a chant sung on this feast day. The approach, similar to that used by Gombert and other Franco-Flemish writers, is sometimes called syntactic imitation since most text phrases (some of which are repeated) receive their own melodic phrase or “point” stated imitatively by various voice parts. This distinctive opening melody is also used as a structural motive throughout the motet, with the cantus II part repeating the motive, alternating between statements on G and D, throughout the piece, similar to the repeated motive in Veni Domine below. This setting reflects the structure of the responsory chant on which it is based with a repeated second section, the so-called repetendum, creating the form aBcB.
The large-scale motet Veni Domine et noli tardare, composed at least by 1536, is thought to be Morales’ earliest datable composition and would have been liturgically appropriate for several Sundays in Advent. The piece is a technical tour de force: the second alto part repeats a motive, beginning on successively lower pitches, throughout the composition. Though the work is heavily imitative, Morales here captures the lightness of texture of several famous pieces of Josquin by carefully using rests or silence in each voice so that other voice parts may be emphasized. Also as Josquin did in several works, Morales breaks the text into two segments that he sets as separate sections divided by a distinct cadence, thus giving the motet a large structure in addition to the ostinato effect of the canon.
The Missa Mille regretz, based on a secular chanson by Josquin, is one of the important cyclical masses of those included in prints issued during his lifetime and one of Morales’ much admired works today. The mass is not only a great tribute to Morales’ brilliant predecessor in the Papal chapel but also a work that displays Morales’ technique in unifying the different segments of a mass by incorporating and manipulating musical motives from the pre-existent piece. The lush harmony and striking melodic material of Josquin’s chanson provide a rich source of motives for Morales, who without resorting to extensive quotes, weaves together a rich musical fabric in much the same way that J. S. Bach made numerous musical references to the chorales on which he based cantatas. Josquin’s chanson was cited by Luis de Narváez, a composer and vihuelist, as being connected to Emperor Charles V, perhaps his favorite song. Charles was heir to the unified crown of Spain and elected Holy Roman Emperor of the wider Habsburg dominion. Morales may have met Charles, or at least sang or played for him, while a young man in Seville, but the composer certainly would have been a member of the Papal chapel singing for the Emperor in April 1536 when Pope Paul III welcomed Charles to Rome. There are various possibilities about Morales’ intentions with the mass in regard to Charles since the composer may have been attempting to gain favor for future employment.
Morales’ five-voice Salve Regina is one of his two settings of this very popular antiphon; the Salve was more frequently used in Spain than were the other Marian chants, since Spaniards continued a tradition of singing this melody on days throughout the year, in contrast to the Roman practice of using each Marian antiphon in one quarter of the church year. The setting included here, unlike the other work for four voices that followed the very traditional Spanish approach of alternating odd numbered “versicles” in chant with even numbered segments in polyphony, includes the whole text set polyphonically but divided into three large sections or “partes” with the central segment for only three voices. Morales likely was the first composer from Spain to use this sectional form, and he may have learned the approach from a setting by Josquin that was known in Seville. As was typical, Morales incorporates references to various segments of the antiphon and presents the musical motives in points of imitation. These imitative references to the melody mean that the chant was shared through all voices in the polyphonic texture, not primarily limited to the highest voice as in the more traditional settings by Spaniards.
Scholars and early music devotees today sometimes disregard Magnificat settings as a kind of utilitarian work, not as interesting as motets or masses or even other liturgical pieces. We should not forget that Morales’ Magnificats were seemingly among the most popular settings of this text during the sixteenth century and continued to be much loved in Rome even in the eighteenth century. The Magnificat, the canticle sung by Mary when she is greeted by her cousin Elizabeth (the incident recounted by Luke), was sung each day in the office of Vespers. The tone, a set of melodic patterns known by the singers, would have been chosen based on the mode of the adjacent antiphon, a chant melody that was typically part of the proper for that day, unique for certain days or seasonal based on the liturgical cycles. As did many other composers, Morales wrote music for each of the eight Magnificat tones, thus providing music that could have been sung on many days throughout the year. Robert Stevenson noted that part of the popularity of Morales’ Magnifcat settings may have been that they were very interesting but also singable, not as difficult as some other composers’ works. This attribute was true also of other very popular liturgical settings by the composer such as his two Requiem masses and his works for Matins for the Dead.
The joyful four-voice Christmas motet Pastores, dicite, quidnam vidistis? is a text adapted from a responsory for Matins of Christmas; Morales broke the text into two segments. The first segment features a very striking passage on the text “et annuntiate,” first with a duet of tenor and bass, then for soprano and alto; this sort of adjacent voice duet, found in music by Josquin and earlier composers, is somewhat rare in music by composers from Sapin. Morales begins the second large segment with the striking statement of “infantem” in a chordal or homorhythmic texture. The composer clearly delights in setting the phrase “et choros angelorum” as sweeping melismatic points of imitation, energy that he continues through the repeated acclamation of “Noe” that closes the work.
The Spanish organist and composer Antonio de Cabezón (ca. 1510-1566) was part of a celebrated tradition of keyboard performers and instrumental music in Spain. Far less is known about this tradition than sacred choral music since much of the instrumental music was improvisatory in nature. Cabezón was likely educated in Palencia. He spent much of his adult life in royal service; he first worked for Queen Isabella, wife of Charles, beginning in 1526, and then was appointed músico de la cámara to the Emperor in 1538. The next year, he was entrusted with educating Prince Felipe and his sisters. During Felipe’s reign, Cabezón would travel extensively with the monarch in various regions of Europe. Like many of his works, the pieces included here are comments or variations based on vocal pieces. Such instrumental “glosses” of well-known works by Josquin and other composers were common in Spain where they were performed not only on organ but also on harp and the popular guitar family instrument, the vihuela. Though we typically consider the organ an instrument for the church, it was commonly used in palaces and outdoor events. Cabezón may have spent an equal amount of time performing in more secular festivities, royal dinners and entertainments, as he did in sacred liturgies. Cabezón, as did Morales, represented Spain on a newly opened international stage, one in which Spain was recognized as a world power not only in politics but in cultural pursuits. Their music remains for us today a unique and wonderful mixof old and new. — Grayson Wagstaff
Rachel Evangeline Barham, Christine Buras, Rebecca Kellerman, Christina Raia, Molly Grace Young
John Bohl, Charles Burg, Sarah Issa El-Khoury, Jeremy Filsell
Jerry Kavinski, Irvin Peterson, Michael Sakell
Scott Auby, Doug Edwards, James Rogers, Jonathan Wagstaff
Theorbo John Armato
Organ Jeremy Filsell
The Church of the Epiphany on G Street NW in Washington, DC, was founded in 1842 and its present choir is a mixture of volunteers and professionals where professional section leaders augment 13 or 14 volunteers. For special functions and concerts, Videntes, a Schola Cantorum, is formed from the nucleus of section leaders, augmented by professional singer colleagues who have a strong connection to the church or who substitute within the choir on a regular basis. Epiphany’s chamber organ, heard on this recording, is a 3-stop instrument built by Orglarstvo Škrabl of Slovenia and was commissioned in 2014 by choir member Susan Manola in memory of her parents, Albert and Frances Manola. Jeremy Filsell is director of music at The Church of the Epiphany, Artist-in-Residence at Washington National Cathedral, and Professor of Organ at Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. He is an internationally known pianist and organist, on the international roster of Steinway Artists and a performer with a discography of more than 30 solo recordings. He studied at Oxford University, the Royal College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire/BCU where was awarded a PhD for musicological research. He has toured recently as a soloist across the USA and UK and in Germany, France, Scandinavia, New Zealand and Australia.