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Amiens 162 D, ff. 37v-41 »Veneremur virginem« 2v

Notation: Entered by Hand B in square notation (with many ligatures) on staff system 3. The initials are black supplemented by drawings in red and yellow, capitals are emphasized in red.

Disposition of parts: [Tenor] with the sequence tune stands on the right hand pages, while [Contra] is at the left. This is the reversal of the normal disposition with the liturgical tune on the left hand pages (however, cf. the layout of »Credo in unum deum«, ff. 121v-124). After the ‘inserted’ 5th stanza, “Salve splendor firmamenti”, the tune changes back to the voice on the left hand page [Contra].

Editions: Amiens 162 Edition no. 9 (PDF).

Text: Stanzas 1-4 and 6 constitute the Marian sequence  “Veneremur virginem”, AH 54 no. 257 (p. 402). It is of French origin and found principally in French MSS and prints, the oldest from the 13th century, but the majority from the 15th and 16th centuries. The text in Amiens 162 corresponds with the late versions. Into this sequence is inserted the last stanza “Salve splendor firmamenti” – here as stanza 5 – of the older and much more widespread Marian sequence “Hodierne lux diei”, RH 7945, AH 54 no. 219 (p. 346), causing an abrupt change of meter and rime (aab ccb in stead of abab cbcb):

[1a] Veneremur virginem,
genitricem gracie,
salutis dulcedinem,
Fontem sapiencie.

[1b] Hec est aula Regia,
regina clemencie,
virgo plena gracia,
aurora leticie.

[2a] Hec est melle dulcior,
castitatis lilium,
iaspide splendidior,
meroris solatium.

[2b] O fons amirabilis,
fidei principium,
mater amicabilis,
vas odoris premium.

[3a] Tu Regis speciosi,
mater honestissima,
odor nardi preciosi,
rosa suavissima.

[3b] Abor vite digna laude,
stella fulgentissima,
generosa mater gaude,
virginum sanctissima.

[4a] Tu medela peccatorum,
regina consilii,
peperisti florem florum,
Christum, fontem gaudii.

[4b] Virga gesse, lux sanctorum,
donatrix auxilium,
memor esto miserorum
in die judicii.

[5a] Salve splendor firmamenti,
tu caliginose menti
desuper Irradia.

[5b] Placa mare maris stella
ne involvat nos procella
et tempestas obvia.

[6a] Tu es mundi gaudium
caritatis regula,
victoris stipendium,
aromatum cellula.<

[6b] Sit tibi flos omnium,
virgo sine macula,
honor et imperium
per eterna secula, amen.


A setting of a sequence in simple polyphony for two equal voices using constant crossing of parts. As it stands here, it combines two quite different polyphonic sequence settings. It does not appear to be a setting of a monophonic sequence, into which a stanza from a different song has been interpolated accidentally:

a) Stanzas 1-4 and 6 set “Veneremur virginem” complete. The sequence tune is sung by the voice placed on the right-hand pages, [Tenor]. Helma Hofmann-Brandt found it in the Parisian gradual of the late 13th century, Bari, Archivio di Stato, Fondo S. Nicola 85 (cf. Hofmann-Brandt 1967, p. 114). The tune in Amiens 162 is identical – except for a few details – to a late version, which was published by A. Gastoué after a 16th century French MS, Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, Ms. 448 (in Gastoué 1908). The tune moves within the range d-e’, and the counter voice keeps to the octave f-f’. The setting avoids any parallel motion in perfect concords, but there is an abundance of parallel thirds and sixths: Stanzas 1-2, 4 and 6 are dominated by the sound of parallel thirds and the parts are kept close together, while stanza 3 stands out by its parallel sixths and up to a tenth between the parts.

b) Stanza 5 is a setting of the final stanza in another, and more widely known, Marian sequence “Hodierne lux diei”. This setting differs from the modern sounding “Veneremur virginem”. Its range is higher, f-g’, it demands a key signature of one flat, and the two first line endings involve parallel fifths. The tenor carries the traditional tune (ed. Hiley 1993, p. 192 (Ex. 11.22.11) or Pothier 1903, pp. 83-84) in a compressed form, where the range has been reduced from a ninth to a sixth, but still recognizable. The “Hodierne” tune is Dorian and ends on d, and prescribes b-flats in its three last stanzas, while “Veneremur“ is Mixolydian on G. The changes in the tune may go back to an older setting (not in any way related to the two-part setting in MS Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Codex Guelf. 628 Helmsted (W1), ff. 185v-186, cf. Baxter 1931) or were the result of a reworking (or as a new composition) for the insertion into “Veneremur”.

Very little variation appears in the double versicles; the most remarkable are the texting at the beginning of 3a (a missing syllable has been repaired by introducing a double value and a ligature respectively) and an extra note against a double value in 4a. Variation is generated solely by the different sound qualities of parallel thirds and sixths, the change of pacing by the introduction of double values in 4a-b, and by the inserted stanza 5.

These pages in MS Amiens 162 have not been revised after copying; the whole piece seems to have been copied straight after an exemplar. This means that also the unusual disposition of the parts goes back to the exemplar. The tune is placed in the voice on the right hand pages, [Tenor], for stanzas 1-5, then it is in the counter voice for stanza 6, before it goes back to the tenor for “Amen”. The curious placement of the added key signatures (see below) could, however, be a sign that the scribe realized that b-flats were needed in the different 5th stanza.

This highly interesting composition attests to the flexibility of the genre and raises interesting questions about the nature of the aesthetic deliberations during the work on simple polyphony.

The two-part sequence has no relationship, neither textual nor musical, with Binchois’ setting of “Veneremur virginem / per cuius dulcedinem / respirat ecclesia” 3v in Aosta, Seminario Maggiore, MS 15 [olim A1; D19], ff. 168v-169 (ed. Gilles Binchois (Philip Kaye, ed.), The sacred music of Gilles Binchois. Oxford 1992, no. 50, pp. 258-263).

Notes on the transcription:

After the copying, a key signature of one flat has been added to both voices. It is placed on or around the uppermost line of the staves. This means that the flats in accordance with the changes in the placements of the clefs happen to refer to many different pitches. Literally understood they indicate in turns the following pitches as fa-steps: f’, e’, g’, d’, c’ and b. In the course of the pieces the C-clefs are moved quite a bit around. The lack of space for the flats indicates that they were later additions and not copied from the exemplar. What shall we think about them? One answer could be that the musically not highly educated scribe or later user observed that some b-flats were required in performance and added the signs as warnings, not caring much about their actual placement. As the flats probably do not stem from the exemplar, and the traditional tune for the sequence “Veneremur virginem” is Mixolydian, the flats have been disregarded in the transcription. However, the warning from the scribe/user has been followed in the use of editorial accidentals.

The setting has been subdivided by vertical strokes through staves and text – most consequently on ff. 37v-38, the markings thin out more and more on the following pages. This structuring of the piece has in the transcription been carried through consistently.

PWCH March 2014