Josquin des Prez, Dulces exuvie

Dulces exuvie (IV, 651-654)

 A. Text and Translation

Dulces exuviae, dum fata deusque sinebat,   

accipite hanc animam meque his exsolvite curis.           

vixi et quem dederat cursum Fortuna peregi,

et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago.

O relics, dear while fate and god allowed, receive my

spirit and free me from these cares; for I have lived a life

and completed the journey that fate gave me, and now my

proud spirit will pass beneath the earth.

B. Musical Sources and Settings

1. Anon.1, a4                             

            sources: London, British Museum, Ms. mus. Royal 8 G.VII, 51v

            modern edition:

*2. ?Agricola [c1445/6-1506], a4 (also attr. LaRue [Milson yes, Meconi maybe, Picker no])                         

            sources: London, British Museum, Ms. mus. Royal 8 G.VII, 52v; Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique,                             MS 228; Augsburg, Staats- und Stadtbibliothek, 2o Cod. 142a

            modern edition: Picker 1965, 265-69; Thomas 2003, 7-9.

*3. Josquin des Prez (c1450/55-1521), a4                          

            sources: London, British Museum, Ms. mus. Royal 8 G.VII, 53v; Novum et insigne opus musicum                                               (Nuremburg: Berg, 1559)

            modern edition: New Josquin Edition (Amsterdam, 1989-), vol. 28, 11; Thomas 2003, 13-15; Osthoff 1955,                               5-8.

4. Jean Mouton (c1459-1522), a4                         

            sources: London, British Museum, Ms. mus. Royal 8 G.VII, 54v; Novum et insigne opus musicum                                             (Nuremburg: Berg & Neuber, 15592) (attr. Mouton)

            modern edition: Josephine M. Shine, The Motets of Jean Mouton, 3 vols. (Ph.D. diss., New York                                                 University, 1953), i, 242-244

5. Johannes Ghiselin-Verbonnet (fl. 1491-1507), a4                                  

            sources: London, British Museum, Ms. mus. Royal 8 G.VII, 55v; St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 463;                                              Selectissimae Cantiones ultra centum (Augsburg: Kriesstein, 1540); Wittenberg, Staatliche                                          Lutherhalle, S 403/1048 (T partbook only)

            modern edition: Johannes Ghiselin-Verbonnet: Opera Omnia, vol. 4, CMM 23, ed. C. Gottwald (Rome:                                   AIM, 1968), 1-3   

6. Marbriano de Orto (c1460-1529), a4                            

            sources: Brussels, Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, MS 228; Florence, Biblioteca del Conservatorio di                                       Musica Luigi Cherubini, MS Basevi 2439           

            modern edition: Picker 1965, 292-95; Thomas 2003, 10-12; Marbriano de Orto: Latin Compositions                                         IX: Motets II, Antico Edition RCM51, ed. N. Davison (Newton Abbot: Antico Editions, 2009), 18-                              20; MGG III (1954), plate 34 (facs. of Bas2439)

7. Anon., a4 (attr. to both Cara and Tromboncino)                                  

            sources: Fioretti di Frottole, Libro II (Naples: Caneto, 1519), no. 2

            modern edition: Osthoff 1954, 102; Luisi 1977, 385; Prizer 1999, 42; van Orden 1996, 346.        

8. Anon.5, a4/a3 (attr. Mouton in NGD)                          

            sources: a4 version: Symphoniae jucundae (Rhau, 1538); Regensburg, Bischöfliche Zentralbibliothek,                                      A.R. 940-941 (attr. Mouton); a3 version [ = a4 without si placet alto]: Tricinia (Wittenburg:                                         Rhau, 1542)St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 463 (attr. Mouton; S partbook only); Antico, Motetti                                   novi et chanzoni franciose a quatro sopra doi (Venice: Antico & Giunta, 1520) (missing T                                             partook)

            modern edition: Symphoniae jucundae...1538, ed. H. Albrecht, Georg Rhau: Musikdrucke aus den                                           Jahren 1538 bis 1545, III (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1959), 26-28 (a4); Tricinia...1542, ed. T. Noblitt,                                  Georg Rhau: Musikdrucke, IX (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1989), 159-61 (a3)

9. Gregor Peschin (c1500-after 1547), a3                         

            sources: Regensburg, Proske Musikbibliothek, MS B 220-22

            modern edition:

10. Ulrich Brätel (c1495-1544/5), a6 (instrumental work)                         

            sources: Kassel, Gesamthochschul-Bibliothek, Landesbibliothek und Murhardsche Bibliothek,                                                     Musiksammlung, 40 24  

            modern edition: 

11. Dyrick Gerard (fl1540-80), a5

            sources: London, British Library, Royal app.

            modern edition:          

12. Freminot, a4                                   

            sources: Bergamo, Biblioteca Civica, MS 1209 D

            modern edition: Lowinsky 1989, I, 181-4       

13. Willaert, a4                          

            sources: Cambrai, Bibliothèque de la Ville, MS. mus 125-128; St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, MS 463;                                                  Munich,Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Musiksammlung, MS 274a; Ulhard 1545/2; Susato, 1547/5;                                Gardano, W 1109          

            modern edition: Adriani Willaert: Opera Omnia, CMM 3, v. 2, ed. H. Zenck (Rome: AIM, 1950), 59-62;                                  Osthoff 1955, 9-12.         

14. Orlando di Lasso (c1532-1594), a5 (2nda pars: a6)                               

            sources: Mellange d’Orlande de Lassus, contenant plusieurs chansons, tant en vers latins qu’en ryme                                    francoyse, 4, 5vv (Paris, 1570)

            modern edition: Orlando di Lasso: Complete Motets, ed. P. Bergquist, RRMR, cii– (Madison: A-R                                           Editions, 1995–), xvii, 34-45

15. Stefano Rosetti, a5                           

            sources: Il primo libro de madrigali (1560)- bass part only survives]

            modern edition:    

16. Jacob Vaet (c1529-1567), a6                           

            sources: Jacobi Vaet Flandri Modulationes Liber Secundus (Gardano, 1562)

            modern edition: J. Vaet: Sämtliche Werke, ed. M. Steinhardt, DTÖ 103/104 (Graz-Vienna, 1963), 74-79

17. Jacob Handl (1550-1591), a5                          

            sources: Moralia (Nuremberg, 1596)

            modern edition: Jacob Handl: The Moralia of 1596: Part II, ed. A. Skei (Madison WI: A-R Editions,                                        1970), 106-108

18. Giaches de Wert (1535-1596 ), [in Italian: Dolci spoglie felic' e care tanto]

            sources: Il primo libro de' madrigali (Venice, 1561)

            modern edition: Giaches de Wert: Collected Works, ed. C. MacClintock and M. Bernstein, CMM 24 (1961-                              77), xv, 45.

C. The Josquin setting


            [Josquin facsimile]


Clearly no other Vergil text came close to Dulces exuvie in popularity with Renaissance composers, and it is not difficult to understand why: within the epigrammatic brevity of just four lines is contained a world of dignity and tragedy. They conjure an unforgettable tableau, and no scene from the Aeneid attracted so much attention from artists, poets, and commentators, as well as musicians. Unlike most of the other Aeneid texts set to music, the brevity of Dulces exuvie lends itself to the more expansive musical style of Franco-Flemish polyphony, and nearly all the settings listed above are of this kind.

Two of the Dulces exuvie settings, those of Josquin and Mouton, have nearly identical superius melodies, and so show signs of direct borrowing (though it is unclear who borrowed from whom). This would have made an interesting pair in concert, since Mouton was court composer to the French kings and one of the greatest composers of his time, but instead we chose the contrast provided by Josquin's and the one attributed to Agricola. Of all the works performed on our program these two are the purest expression of Franco-Flemish musical genius: from a seemingly inexhaustible store of melodic invention new thematic material is generated for each new phrase of text, often expressed in imitation or canon between two or more voices, and the carefully-paced unfolding is governed by subtle variations in range, textural density, rhythmic activity, and harmony. The individual performer of any part has the great satisfaction of singing a series of independent and artfully shaped lyrical phrases that are propelled along by the gentle ebbs and flows of harmony as well as the more animated movement of rhythmic counterpoint coming from all sides. A glance at the scores of both works shows how much more there is of wordless florid melodic movement than in the other works, moments in which pure vocalism is indulged apart from considerations of text. This is perhaps even more true in Agricola's setting, where the priority given to overall musical flow and textural beauty is evident in the tendency to obscure the cadences of individual sections. On the other hand, Josquin achieves the clearest and most careful declamation of the words, and the most nuanced shifts of texture in response to the unfolding text. In precisely this latter respect, the great Swiss music theorist Heinrich Glarean likened Josquin to Vergil:

"No one has expressed more effectively in songs the moods of the heart than his symphonetes, no one has begun more successfully, no one has been able to vie with him on an equal plane in grace and fluency of expression, just as no one of the Romans is superior to Maro [Vergil] in the epic. For just as Maro, with the felicity of a natural talent, was accustomed to make a poem equal to the subject matter, as for instance, to place weighty matters before the eyes with accumulated spondees, to express rapidity with unmixed dactyls, to use words suitable to his every also our Josquin sometimes moves with light, accelerating notes where the subject demands it, sometimes sings the songs with the slow, moving tones."[i]

A note on the edition: the original ranges of the voice parts suited the all-male ensembles of the day, and if this work had been sung at its original pitch level (a minor third lower than in my edition), it would have required a configuration of ATTB, with the alto part sung by males. I transposed the piece up a third so that it now shows an uncharacteristic signature of three flats, but allows the parts to be sung by an SATB choir, with a few adjustments to alto parts that still went too low, and tenor passages that went too high. Text underlay is notoriously imprecise in sources of vocal music from this era, something that was undoubtedly left to singers of the day to sort out according to practices that were understood among them. As a result, no two modern editions, mine among them, agree about this. 


[i] Dodecachordon, trans. Clement A. Miller, 2 vols. (Rome: AIM, 1965), ii, 264-265. Later in this passage he likens Obrecht to Ovid, Isaac to Lucan, Pierre de la Rue to Horace, Antoine de Févin to Claudian, and Antoine Brumel to Statius.