Ego flos campi

About this work

This sacred motet for seven voices is especially complicated for its many concurrent melodic streams, but the composer seems to have no trouble with managing a convincing, satisfying cohesion. In fact, such a statement dramatically understates the case; this brief motet displays an astonishing command of the craft of counterpoint. What is more, the listener will not be caught up so much in the technical wizardry in operation as he will be deeply affected by the heartfelt, balanced, emotive score. The text is atmospheric, depicting a biblical passage that does not have any direct relation to the gospels, featuring a testament to the excellent living conditions of ancient Lebanon in the first person. In like manner, the score sounds less devout than successfully accompanying. Clemens suitably typifies the mid-sixteenth century practice of stressing the words more closely than did motet composers of earlier generations. The fact that he does so not with three or four voices, but rather with seven voices is impressive, because the more performers make the risk of failed cohesion larger. Genuinely astonishing is his ability to make the seven voices sound like a detail to presenting the text demonstrates nearly unprecedented subtlety. Eventually, the motet would crumble in importance as the madrigal's star rose not long after the end of Clemens' career. The madrigal emphasized the text further than the motet could, but with Clemens composing these pieces, the motet form reveals itself to have been a part of the cultural dialogue, rather than something that became antiquated and dismissed. Ego flos campi is an excellent work of art at the twilight of its genre's power.

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