Josquin Des Prez

Praeter rerum seriem, motet for 6 parts

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    "Beyond the accepted order of things" begins the text of a thirteenth-century Sequence about the mystery of the Incarnation; richly deep in the sonic depths begins Josquin Desprez's setting of the same text, Praeter rerum seriem. First printed in 1519, but probably composed earlier, this six-voiced Christmas motet presents an extremely tight series of imitative motifs around the central chant melody; the chant itself passes back and forth between Superius and Tenor voices in often near-canonic relationship. For much of the motet, Josquin counterpoises textural groups: the three lowest voices heard at the opening are placed in an antiphonal relationship with the upper three voices (when the melody is in the Superius), and both are juxtaposed with the full six-voiced sonority. Though all the voices are in fact frely composed, pairs throughout imitate one another so intimately that an illusion of canon obtains.

    Following the common form of the late Medieval Sequence, successive strophes of text, in pairs, take the same melody. Josquin's setting observes this underlying structure, but also imposes its own trajectory. The first two strophes comprise the first part of the motet, with the cantus firmus of the second strophe (from "nec vir tangit") at double the speed, a vestige of the traditions of Isorhythm. Over the course of the second part of the motet, the rhythmic pace accelerates (to duple time, and then to a fast triple time symbolically referencing the Trinity), and the textural boundaries between voices blur themselves. Just before the final strophe of text, at the phrase "omnia tam suave," hemiola syncopations blunt the edge of the jaunty triple-time, and the entire piece seems to revert to its opening sense of awe for the prayerful close.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 CPO 7779572
    2015 Obsidian Records CD 715
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2012 Coro COR 16097
    2011 Amon Ra CDSAR 65
    2007 DG Deutsche Grammophon 0734361
    2007 Tall Poppies 192
    2007 Querstand 704
    2006 Gimell 206
    2003 DG Archiv
    2003 DG Archiv 000127302
    2003 Gimell 201
    2001 Gimell 29
    2000 Discipline Global Mob DGM 0006
    1999 Amon Ra 56
    1998 Gimell 454990
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 449 819-2AH
    1997 Meridian Records 84356
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon 453907
    1994 Gimell 454 929-2PH
    1993 DG Archiv 437833
    Jade 107
    ABC Classics 4803628