Musae Jovis

Nicolas Gombert

Musae Jovis

About this work

One of the elements of art that makes a piece retain interest for listeners centuries later is its ability to touch upon sublime feeling that is both timeless and expressive of the sensibilities particular to the work's time of creation. This sixteenth-century motet for six voices laments the loss of Josquin Deprez in a manner that cannot help but move anyone who cares enough to listen. The atmosphere it generates is unusual, insofar as it features a prominent high voice that weaves above a background of lower ranges that perform in tight, imitative counterpoint, resulting in a gauzy, misty sound through which the soloist delivers a most touching description of the magnitude of music's loss. Not many pieces of music do this as effectively. A comparison with Vivier's Lonely Child is viable, but that twentieth-century piece does not have the power of Gombert's text. The poem compares the Flemish composer's death to being in Hell. The aching, heartfelt feeling seems able to go as far as the composer wishes without the sound ever becoming cloying or feeling manipulative. Though the sentiment of loss has been expressed successfully in text and music repeatedly throughout history, few vocal works have combined them both in order to testify so well to the importance of a colleague. Knowing this work would enrich those who are interested in becoming well-acquainted with the vocal music of the sixteenth century, but it is not appropriate to limit this piece's listeners to the historically particular. Musae Jovis/Circumdederunt me is a masterpiece.

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