Jacob Obrecht

Beata es Maria, motet for 4 voices

    Description by Timothy Dickey

    A large proportion of Obrecht's sacred music borrows preexistant melodies from the liturgy for cantus firmus treatment; many pieces juxtapose several simultaneously. One motet, on the text Beata es, Maria, betrays an even more interesting genesis, by also quoting text and music from a popular Italian form of para-liturgical worhip music known as the Lauda Spirituale. Both the opening text and the melodic subject of the initial imitation, Jennifer Bloxam has shown, derive from a Marian devotional tune popular in Italy. This Italian connection shows knowledge of the similar motet Ave Maria by Loyset Compere. It further indicates the likelihood that the Netherlander Obrecht wrote this motet during his six-month visit in Ferrara, as the Duke of Ferrara was trying to recruit the composer's services.

    The motet, which divides in two major parts, is based on two statements of the same Tenor melody, whose words and music relate to the Lauda. The first part begins with all four voices contrapuntally elaborating the Lauda music; later, the melody of the Tenor borrows plainchant from the Great Litany, as all voices sing excerpts of the Litany text. In the second part, the Tenor text and music are repeated verbatim, but the other three voices sing the text of another famous Marian devotional piece, "Ave Maria, gratia plena." The textual pastiche is mirrored in the music, as the Alto voice in the second half interpolates the plainchant music for "Ave Maria" as a simultaneous and contrasting second cantus firmus. But the melody quoted here contains a number of small, but particularly Italian variants to the chant, further strengthening the Italianate nature of the piece. The motet thus mingles certain distinct flavours of the South with Obrecht's constructivist and rational Northern heritage.


    Beata es, Maria, Virgo clemens et pia, Candore vincis lilia, Et rosa sine spina, Sanctorum melodia. Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. O Christe audi nos. Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis ad Dominum. O Christe audi nos.

    Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum, virgo serena, benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus fructus ventris tui. Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis peccatoribus. O Christe audi nos.

    Blessed are you, Mary, Virgin merciful and loving, surpassing the lilies in whiteness, and rose without a thorn, the melody of the saints. Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy. O Christ, hear us. Holy Mary, pray for us before the Lord. O Christ, hear us.

    Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, serene virgin, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Holy Mary, pray for us sinners. O Christ, hear us.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Alto MCS 1308
    2013 Archiv Produktion 002894791045AB55
    2007 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2003 ASV / Gaudeamus / Sanctuary CDGAU 341
    1996 DG Archiv 449082
    1994 Archiv Produktion / DG Deutsche Grammophon 445 667-2AX7
    Eufoda 000
    Eufoda 1166