Vox Lucens

Vox Lucens CD: Sacred Music of the Sixteenth Century

Vox Lucens: Sacred Music of the Sixteenth Century

In June of 2003, Vox Lucens released its first CD, recorded in the historic Ralph Adams Cram chapel in Sudbury, MA, and eponymously titled "Vox Lucens: Sacred Music of the 16th Century."

The CD is for sale in our on-line store (where you can also listen to brief samples of all tracks) and is also available for purchase at our concerts.

Below are the program notes and translations for the CD:

Program Notes

The selections on this recording are at the core of the Vox Lucens repertoire. These are pieces that speak to singer and listener alike: they touch the heart and soul in that quiet way of Renaissance singing. We have taken much joy returning to these pieces over the years.

The music on this recording is sacred, and would have been primarily intended for performance during church services. Both the Catholic and Protestant churches are represented here, so it may come as a surprise that the texts are all in Latin. Although the Protestant tradition of vernacular hymns started around this time (the mid- to late-1500's), decorum largely dictated that the major church compositions should remain in Latin.

A quick tour of our composers shows how widely the common Renaissance idiom of choral singing had spread throughout Europe. From the low countries (Clemens), through France (Goudimel), to Germany (Senfl, Handl), Italy (Palestrina), Spain (Geurrero, Victoria), and elsewhere. Most of these musicians traveled widely: Handl, who was also known as Gallus (the Frenchman), and especially the incomparable Lassus, who made all places home, from his birthplace in Flanders, to Rome, and finally to the German court.

What unites these composers is their common musical language, a language that has come down to us in manuscripts and printed part books. Nowhere is that language more clearly articulated than in the musical form known as the sacred motet. These pieces departed from the mainstay of church music, the Mass, in that their text and form were not dictated by the day-to-day liturgical needs of the Church. With the motet, composers had the freedom to choose the text of the piece and the musical means for expressing it. To write a motet thus became something of a composer's personal statement.

Many of these statements are especially heartfelt. Often they are drawn from the Psalms, as in our first selection, De profundis (Psalm 129), one of the so-called penitential Psalms, and one of Lassus' most compelling compositions. Many motets, including De profundis, can be thought as musical prayers. Among the more intimate of these are settings of the Ave Maria, the prayer for personal intercession to Mary; Guerrero's setting (track 4) is particularly touching.

In contrast, the Senfl Ave Maria (track 6) is conceived on a grand scale. It is unusually long for a motet, and represents a musical homage to Josquin des Prez, who is often taken to have been Senfl's teacher. The entire composition is based around a recurring theme quoted from Josquin's famous setting of this text: the theme is heard at the very beginning of the piece, and then throughout the composition in slow notes carried by the long-suffering tenors.

Motets were also written to celebrate particular seasons of the liturgical year. Justorum anime (track 12) was written for All Saints Day. The events leading up to Christmas are represented here in a series of motets (tracks 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, and 12). These feature, in particular, the music of Clemens non Papa, who wrote at the height of the Renaissance in music, and Jakob Handl, who wrote towards its very end.

Another common source of motet texts was the Song of Songs, represented here by Nigra sum, Ego flos campi, and Quam pulchra es (tracks 9, 11, and 13). The great love poem of the Old Testament seems to have held special meaning to Renaissance composers. Perhaps they were drawn to the juxtaposition of the text as iconic for the love of God and Man, and its imagery rich with the love of man and woman. As a whole, Renaissance motets from the Song are some of the most intimate compositions in an already intimate musical form.

Finally, we include here the Kyrie movement (track 2) from Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcellis (Pope Marcellus Mass). Legends have long circulated about this composition having, among others, been dictated by an angel. Palestrina must have had access to some very musically competent angels, as this movement is a motet-like gem; the rest of the Mass is in fact based on various re-arrangements of the Kyrie theme.


De profundis (Lassus)
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine:
Domine exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuae intendentes
in vocem deprecationis meae.
Si iniquitates observaveris,
Domine: quis sustinebit?
Quia apud te propitiatio est:
et propter legem tuam sustinui te Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo ejus:
speravit anima mea in Domino.
A custodia matutina usque ad noctem:
ad noctem: speret Israel in Domino.
Quia apud Dominum misericordia:
et copiosa apud eum redemptio.
Et ipse redimet Israel,
ex omnibus iniquitatibus ejus.
Gloria Patri et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
From the depths I call to you, Lord:
Lord, hear then my plea.
May your ears attend
to the voice of my pleadings.
If, Lord, you were to behold all wrongdoings,
Lord, who would remain?
But within you is forgiveness:
and through your laws are you upheld.
In your word is my own soul upheld:
have hope, my soul, in the Lord.
As those who stand guard from morning
till night: so does Israel hope in the Lord.
Because in the hands of the Lord there is
mercy: and because in these hands there is
great redemption. And in this way shall Israel
be redeemed, and from every wrongdoing.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, and now, and forever:
and for centuries of centuries. Amen.
Kyrie (Palestrina)
Kyrie eleison.
Christe eleison.
Kyrie eleison.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
O Magnum Mysterium (Clemens)
O magnum mysterium
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum
natum jacentem in praesepio.
Beata Virgo cujus viscera meruerunt
portare Dominum Christum.
Noe, noe, noe, noe.
Domine audivi auditum tuum
et timui consideravi opera tua,
et expavi in medio duorum
O great mystery and wonderful
sacrament, that animals should
see the newborn Lord lying
in their manger! Blessed is
the Virgin whose womb was
worthy to carry the Lord Christ.
Noe! Noe! Noe! Noe!
Lord, I heard your oracle
and I was afraid; I considered your works
and I trembled in the midst
of the animals.
Ave Maria (Guerrero)
Ave Maria, gratia plena,
Dominus tecum, benedicta tu
in mulieribus, et benedictus
fructus ventris tui, Jesus.
Sancta Maria, regina caeli,
O mater Dei, ora pro nobis
peccatoribus, ut cum electis
te videamus.
Hail, Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee, blessed are you
among women and blessed is the fruit of
thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, queen of heaven,
O Mother of God, pray for us
sinners, so together with the chosen ones
we shall see you.
O Admirabile commercium! (Handl)
O admirabile commercium!
Creator generis humani,
animatum corpus sumens,
de virgine nasci dignatus est:
et procedans homo sine semine,
largitus est nobis suam deitatem.
O wondrous interchange!
The Creator of the human race,
assuming a living body,
has deigned to be born of a virgin:
and issuing forth unbegotten,
he has bestowed upon us his divinity.
Ave Maria (Senfl)
Ave Maria,
Gratia plena,
Dominus tecum
virgo serena.
Ave cujus conceptio,
Solemni plena gaudio,
Coelestia, terrestia,
Nova replet laetitia.
Ave cujus nativitas
Nostra fuit somlemnitas
Ut lucifer lux oriens,
Verum solem praeveniens.
Ave pia humilitas,
Sine viro foecunditas,
Cujus annuntiatio,
Nostra fuit salvatio.
Ave vera virginitas,
Immaculata castitas,
Cujus purificatio
Nostra fuit pergatio.
Ave praeclara omnibus
Angelicis virtutibus,
Cujus fuit assumptio
Nostra glorificatio.
O Mater Dei,
Memento mei. Amen.
Hail Mary,
full of grace,
the Lord is with you,
gentle maiden.
Hail, whose conception
full of solemn joy,
fills heaven and earth
with new delight.
Hail, whose birth
was our holy day,
like the rising morning light,
coming before the true sun.
Hail, pious humility,
fertility without a man,
whose annunciation
was our salvation.
Hail, true virginity
unspotted chastity
whose purification
was our cleansing.
Hail, brightest of all
angelic virtues
whose assumption was
our glorification.
O Mother of God,
remember me. Amen.
Ab oriente (Handl)
Ab oriente venerunt magi in Bethlehem,
ad adorare Dominum;
et apertis thesauris suis
preciosa munera obtulerunt:
aurum sicut regi magno,
thus sicut Deo vero,
myrrham sepulturae ejus.
From the East wise men arrived
in Bethlehem to adore the Lord;
and when they had opened their treasures
they presented him with precious gifts:
gold as for a mighty ruler,
frankincense as for a true god,
and myrrh for his burial.
Hodie Nobis Coelorum (Goudimel)
Hodie nobis coelorum rex de virgine
nasci dignatus est, ut hominem
perditum ad coelestia regna revocaret.
Gaudet exercitus angelorum: Quia
salus aeterna humano generi apparuit.
Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra pax hominibus bonae
voluntatis: quia salus aeterna
humano generi apparuit.
Today for us the king of heaven is born,
worthy to be born of a virgin, so he might
restore ruined man to the heavenly kingdom.
The host of angels rejoices: because eternal
salvation has appeared for the human race.
Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace and good will
to men: because eternal salvation
has appeared for the human race.
Nigra sum (Victoria)
Nigra sum, sed formosa,
filia Jerusalem.
Ideo dilexit me rex
et introduxit me in cubiculum suum.
Et dixit mihi, surge amica mea,
et veni jam hiems transiit
imber abiiit et recessit
Flores apparuerunt in terra nostra
tempus putationis advenit.
I am very dark, but comely,
O daughters of Jerusalem.
Therefore the King loved me,
and brought me into his chamber
. And he said to me, Arise my love,
and come, for now the winter is passed,
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers have appeared in our land,
the time of pruning is come.
Ecce, Dominus veniet (Victoria)
Ecce, Dominus veniet,
et omnes Sancti eius cum eo,
et erit in die illa lux magna:
Ecce, apparebit Dominus
super nubem candidam,
et cum eo Sanctorum millia.
et erit in die illa lux magna:
Behold, the Lord comes,
and all Saints of his with him,
And there will be in that day a great light:
Behold, the Lord will appear
on a white cloud
And with him thousands of Saints.
And there will be in that day a great light.
Ego flos campi (Clemens)
Ego flos campi
et lilium convalium,
sicut lilium inter spinas,
sic amica mea inter filias
fons hortorum et puteus
aquarum viventium,
quae fluunt impetu de Libano.
I am the rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
As a lily among the thorns
so is my love among the daughters.
Thou art a fountain of gardens,
a well of living waters
and flowing streams from Lebanon.
Justorum animae (Lassus)
Justorum animae in manu Dei
sunt, et non tanget illos tormentum
mortis; visi sunt oculis
insipientium mori:
illi autem sunt in pace.
The souls of the righteous are in the hand
of God, and the torment of death shall not
touch them; in the sight of the foolish
they seem to die:
but they are in peace.
Quam pulchra es (Lupi)
Quam pulchra es amica mea
et quam decora
charissima in deliciis tuis.
Statura tua assimilata est palmae
et ubera tua botris.
Caput tuum ut Carmelus,
colum tuum sicut turis eburnea.
Veni dilecte mi
egrediamur in agrum.
Videamus si flores fructus parturierut,
si floruerunt mala punica.
Tibi dabo ubera mea.
How beautiful you are, my dearest
and how entrancing you are, my beloved,
in your delights.
You are stately as a palm tree,
and your breasts are like clusters of fruit.
You carry your head like Mount Carmel,
your neck is like a tower of ivory.
Come, my beloved,
let us go out into the fields.
Let us see if the flowers have brought forth
blossoms, if the pomegranates have bloomed.
I will give my breasts to you.