The so-called ‘wolf pack’, of musicians whose names relate in some way to the Latin word lupus, is a substantial grouping. One might mention the Toledo choirmaster Alonso Lobo (1555–1617) and the Portuguese Duarte Lobo (c1565–1646, sometimes latinized to Eduardus Lupus), as well as the five members of the Lupo family who between them served the English court for over a century under the Tudors and Stuarts. The two composers on whom this recording focuses are closely linked chronologically in that they died within two years of one another: Johannes Lupi in 1539 and Lupus Hellinck in 1541. Moreover, both spent most of their careers in the Low Countries—Hellinck in particular was rooted in Bruges, and Lupi associated for most of his life with Cambrai Cathedral. They were not coevals, however: Hellinck was born in 1493 or ’94 and was ordained priest in 1518, at which time Lupi, born around 1506, was still a boy chorister, leaving Cambrai in 1521 to matriculate at the University of Leuven. Lupi, incidentally, is a latinization of the family name Leleu, whereas Hellinck’s Christian name in the vernacular was Wulfaert (and his son was called Wulfuekin).
Lupi returned to Cambrai in 1526 as a singing man, and was appointed chapelmaster the following year, despite his youth. Perhaps on account of his having been a chorister so recently, he was continually upbraided by the cathedral authorities for the behaviour of the choirboys under his care; he was also reprimanded in 1531 for lapses in his own conduct, though no further detail is given. Sadly he was afflicted by a chronic illness which led to his early death on 20 December 1539. Meanwhile Hellinck had become succentor of the major church of St Donatian in Bruges in 1523, and remained in the post until his death eighteen years later.
For a composer who lived only thirty-three years or so, Johannes Lupi was fairly prolific, leaving two Mass settings, over thirty motets, and about twenty-five French chansons. The true extent of his output is difficult to state with certainty—even more so than is the case with most of his contemporaries—due to the preponderance of doubtful attributions: Bonnie Blackburn’s worklist in the New Grove Dictionary gives fourteen additional opera dubia, as well as conflicting attributions to five of the motets she considers securely Lupi’s work. Composers with whom Lupi was confused included Nicolas Gombert, Jacquet de Berchem, Jean Conseil, and not surprisingly Hellinck, most obviously on the title page of a Mass print issued in 1545 by Tylman Susato of Antwerp, which cites a ‘Ioan. Lupo Hellingo’. Conflicts such as these based on similarity of names were far from unusual: if Jacobus Clemens non Papa and Thomas Crecquillon were mixed up numerous times based on little more than the fact that their names both begin with C, how much more muddled would the transmission of Lupi and Lupus be? But in fact, as Blackburn points out, an examination of the respective styles of Lupi and Hellinck reveals some significant differences, of course within the stylistic parameters of the second quarter of the sixteenth century. Lupi in particular has a liking for writing extended chains of short notes (mostly semiminims), often in several voices simultaneously, and consequently a modern score of his music has a significantly blacker appearance than those of many contemporaries. (To a sixteenth-century scribe or typesetter this effect would be less marked, given that they would have been looking at a single voice at a time.) Hellinck, by contrast, writes in longer note values, often indeed using very long notes almost as pedal points, and is more inclined to angular melody.
Hellinck’s compositions cover somewhat different genres from those of Lupi, in part because he was evidently a Dutch speaker and worked in the north for his entire career. As befits a long-standing choirmaster, he wrote at least a dozen Mass settings, as well as nearly twenty motets, some German chorales, and secular songs in both French and Flemish. Blackburn suggests that the existence of the chorales, plus his participation in a play that was later banned by the Church, indicate an unusual level of sympathy for Reformation ideas for one who was an ordained Catholic priest. (The existence of the aforementioned son, Wulfuekin, also does not indicate perfect conformity with the requirements on Catholic priests: Hellinck did at least make provision in his will for the boy and his presumed mother.)
Missa Surrexit pastor bonus is one of three Mass settings that Hellinck wrote for five voices, the others all being four-voice. It is based on a motet by Andreas De Silva, a slightly older composer of unknown but perhaps Spanish origin who sang in the Papal Chapel in the latter years of Pope Leo X (r1513–21). Whereas De Silva’s motet, also in five parts, is scored for alto, two tenors, and two basses, Hellinck creates a lighter texture, with two almost equal upper voices (named superius and altus in the 1547 print used for this recording) above a quinta pars in the usual alto range, tenor, and bassus.
Set in the standard tripartite form, the Kyrie begins with a phrase derived from De Silva’s model, which however only follows the model’s melody for three notes (F–C–A) before rising to D. This four-note motif recurs at the head of each Mass movement, but in the first Kyrie it is heard only at the very outset, since all four voices apart from the superius ‘flex’ the melody to F–C–B flat–D, or in the bassus’s case, C–G–F–A. Indeed other sources alter the superius version so that all five instances of the motif heard in the first nine bars are the same; this however eliminates the melodic identity both with the rest of Hellinck’s Mass and with De Silva’s model, so we have chosen to perform the version given in the 1547 print. The first section is quite tightly bound with this phrase in one or other manifestation, ending with a restatement of the F–C–A–D version in the superius.
As in the classic formulation of imitation Mass technique, the later sections of the Kyrie take motifs from further into De Silva’s motet: the Christe from the second text section, ‘qui animam suam’, and the second Kyrie from the motet’s secunda pars opening, ‘ecce crucem Domini’ (though somewhat refigured). Hellinck’s polyphony is however not much indebted to that of De Silva: like others such as Nicolas Gombert he is a borrower of melodic material which is then extensively reworked, rather than taking blocks of polyphony. (Blackburn observes in her collected edition of Lupi that this latter technique was characteristic of the younger composer’s imitation Masses, although, as she notes, he often includes more freely composed material in the later movements. The beautiful six-part second Agnus of Lupi’s Missa Philomena praevia, based on Richafort’s motet, is a case in point.)
The Gloria movement is cast in a tripartite form, with a central trio for upper voices flanked by two full-texture sections of broadly equal weight. The opening ‘et in terra’ sounds like a fanfare-like version of the head motif, and like many of his contemporaries Hellinck engages in motivic interplay between the statements ‘Laudamus te’, ‘Benedicimus te’ and so on. At 1’35 of track 4 the melodic contours soften as the phrase ‘Domine Deus, rex caelestis’ is characterized with a largely stepwise outline, which is worked contrapuntally in a modified inversion (G–E–F–G–A in superius, C–D–C–A–B flat in altus). The first section culminates in the statement of the name of Jesus, taking the superius to its highest note, f”, and introducing a cadential false relation between the two uppermost voices.
Following the brief trio, which with its equal upper voices feels almost like a trio sonata texture, the full ensemble returns with antiphony between lower and upper voices, a technique often used later in the century by Lassus among others. Hellinck slows the harmonic rhythm at ‘suscipe deprecationem nostram’, before the ‘Qui sedes’ and ‘Quoniam’ sections begin to increase the temperature again, with more upper-versus-lower-voice duetting (‘tu solus sanctus’–‘Tu solus altissimus’), and a spacious chordal statement of the holy name. Finally, from ‘cum Sancto Spiritu’ all voices break into running semiminims that take the music into the climactic Amen.
The Credo is likewise bookended with two substantial full sections of nearly equal length, though this longer text has two central sections: a full-voice and substantially homophonic ‘Et incarnatus’ contrasting with a light duo (‘Et resurrexit’) which like the reduced section of the Gloria omits the tenor and bass, along with one of the soprano voices. The opening section is perhaps most notable for the duetting sopranos, which first alternate text phrases (e.g. ‘Et in unum Dominum’ / ‘Filium Dei unigenitum’) then come together in imitation (‘genitum non factum’). The most solemn part of the Credo text, describing the Incarnation and Crucifixion, alternates three sets of chords with two contrapuntal subsections: in a clear unifying strategy, each chordal statement adopts the same sequence: F–d–g–C (upper case letters denote major chords, lower case minor). The superius-quintus (soprano-alto) duet that follows is a maximal contrast to the preceding homophony, being highly melismatic and imitative, largely at the octave. It exploits the full range of both voices, which spend a substantial part of the duet at least an octave apart, while also cadencing on a unison at ‘dexteram Patris’. The final full section divides informally into two, between the description of the Holy Spirit (until track 11 1’10) and the final doctrinal text from ‘Et unam sanctam’; the first of these subsections traces an emotional arc, building towards ‘Qui cum Patre et Filio’, where the superius reaches its highest pitch, before finishing with a brief trio between altus, tenor and bassus. The final subsection undergoes a steady crescendo towards the triumphant assertion of eternal life.
The Sanctus is somewhat unusual for this period in being cast in just four sections, with the ‘Pleni sunt caeli’ text stated as part of the opening. The lilting triple-time ‘Osanna’ is uncharacteristically long, also, at just under two minutes. Hellinck generates considerable forward motion through the use of hemiola and strategic repetition of material, as well as once again controlling tessitura in the service of expression. The relatively brief Benedictus—half the length of either the Sanctus or Osanna sections—was not included in the 1547 print that was used as the principal source for this recording, but has been supplied from a manuscript in Cambrai. It is a duet between tenor and bass, the two voices being held in a relatively close intervallic relationship, in contrast with the upper-voice duet in the Credo.
As with the Sanctus, Hellinck’s Agnus Dei occupies fewer separate sections than is often found in Masses of the 1530s: just two rather than the more traditional three (it is possible however that a short piece of plainsong might have been inserted should a threefold statement of the text have been regarded as essential). The first section is relatively low-key, yielding the limelight to the much more substantial final ‘dona nobis’, unusually set in triple time. Here the head motif appears in the second soprano, worked contrapuntally with a different point which is imitated freely in the other four voices. The repetition of ‘Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi’ occupies the first forty-four bars of this section, subsiding on a cadence made by the four lower voices as the superius takes up the ‘dona nobis’ text with an upward scalic figure that is heard in due course in all five voices. Once again Hellinck takes the superius up to the top of its texture for the peroration of the movement, a fitting climax to his expertly controlled setting.
Turning to Lupi’s motets: Quam pulchra es is a serene setting of a Song of Songs text, in the major mode. The poem describes the beloved’s physical characteristics in turn, and the composer responds with largely stepwise motion, imitating the honeyed tones of the attempted seducer. In the secunda pars the poet becomes more assertive, and the phrase ‘Veni, dilecte mi’ that opens the section is set to semibreves in rising fourths. The poem then begins to adopt the female voice (Lupi omits certain verses of the biblical text that clarify the sense somewhat), and the lovers agree to go out into the garden to consummate their relationship. The final consenting words ‘Ibi dabo tibi ubera mea’ are repeated at increasingly high pitch, culminating in a cascading descending phrase. This apparently secular erotic poetry is then followed, perhaps incongruously to modern ears, with a four-bar Amen featuring an improvised cadenza over the penultimate chord. To a Renaissance observer, the juxtaposition of religious and secular texts would not have jarred: the Song of Songs was variously interpreted as representing the union of Christ and the Church, or the chaste submission of the Blessed Virgin to her role as Christ-bearer.
Indeed, Salve celeberrima virgo utilizes exactly this imagery in relation to Mary. This eight-part motet is possibly Lupi’s finest achievement as a composer: it is beautifully paced and expresses a fervent and tender adoration for the Blessed Virgin, using the characteristics of the Dorian mode to great effect. The Parisian printers Attaingnant and Jullet chose this work to open their 1542 publication of Lupi’s motets, and one can understand why. The opening point is treated spaciously, taking fully nineteen breves until the secundus bassus has stated the motif. Although the eight voices are not disposed as a double choir, there is considerable use of antiphony, as at ‘virgo Dei genitrix’ (track 18 1’11) and, even more obviously, ‘quam pulchra es’ (3’49). The high point of the prima pars is ‘Quam speciosa nimis’ (3’18 onwards), after which the texture gradually subsides towards the section break, with the repeated ‘et quam decora’ sounding almost wistful (and entirely different in tone to the setting of the same words in Quam pulchra es).
The secunda pars seems less mystical in its approach to the text, though the antiphony is still present and the false relations that so often characterize multi-voice works of this kind are frequently to be heard. In this and other respects, Salve celeberrima virgo is rather reminiscent of Nicolas Gombert’s Lugebat David Absalon, a work which is perceived as having great expressive power (though paradoxically this Latin text was not its original: the work is a contrafact of two French chansons). Whatever Lugebat David’s curious history, the interplay of flattened and natural sixth scale degrees with many false relations, and the varied antiphony creating a roiling texture, are much to the fore in both works. Lupi’s motet is unlike that of Gombert, however, in interpolating a brief triple-time section near the end, following which the music returns to duple time for the final seven breves, repeating material from the prima pars but with new text.
Relatively few Renaissance composers set the Te Deum canticle: Winfried Kirsch’s comprehensive catalogue of Latin settings up to the mid-sixteenth century lists thirty-six named composers from the Continent, plus another thirty anonymous settings, though he also mentions half a dozen works from later in the century, by composers such as Lassus and Guerrero. Very few settings are found in multiple sources, of which that by Andreas De Silva, composer of the motet on which Lupus Hellinck’s Mass is based, is the most widespread. Moreover, nearly all of the manuscripts in which Te Deum settings are found contain only one example, and for instance the large collection of Cappella Sistina and Cappella Giulia manuscripts from the Vatican yields just two Te Deums, one by Lupi’s near contemporary Costanzo Festa (c1488–1545), and the other a much earlier setting by Gilles Binchois (c1400–1460). This canticle thus stands in stark contrast to the Magnificat, polyphonic settings of which were ubiquitous at this time—Kirsch in the same volume lists over a thousand, many of which were distributed widely.
Lupi’s setting is in a minority even within the small group of Te Deums, in treating every verse (following the short plainchant intonation) in polyphony: about three quarters of the works listed by Kirsch are alternatim settings. Of the fully polyphonic settings, most group the canticle’s twenty-nine verses to make a tripartite motet form, usually verses 1–10 (praise of God), 11–19 (praise of the Trinity and Christ) and 20–29 (prayers). Those which observe the verse form most frequently fall into thirty-one sections, dividing verse 5 into three subsections (Holy, / holy, / holy Lord God of hosts). Lupi follows this practice but also divides the final verse into two by adding a repeat of the last two words, ‘in aeternum’: the only other composer to treat the last verse in this way is Clemens non Papa, though the remainder of Clemens’s setting is alternatim. Both Clemens’s and Lupi’s settings are found in manuscripts from Cambrai, conceivably indicating a local performance tradition. Cambrai was of course Lupi’s home city: indeed another of its music manuscripts bears the composer’s signature added during his boy chorister years (the image was reproduced by Blackburn in her article on the two composers in The Musical Quarterly of 1973—Lupi punningly describes himself as ‘enfant de choeur’, writing a heart [coeur] shape instead of the final word).
Highlights of Lupi’s setting include the threefold ‘Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth’ which builds to a strong climax through the three subsections. Section 13 (track 28), ‘Patrem immensae maiestatis’, has a striking upward stepping motif, with the tenor part in syncopation. In the first half of the canticle, Lupi alternates between triple and duple time, and the last of the triple-time (tempus perfectum) sections is No 16 (track 29), ‘Tu rex gloriae, Christe’, a short and explosive exclamation in which the tenor part is a simple statement of the plainchant melody, in turn imitated by the soprano, and worked in inversion by the alto and bass.
The texture is varied on several occasions in the latter part of the canticle. Section 19 (track 30 0’42) is a duet for soprano and alto, with substantial semiminim motion in the alto, and both sections 23 (track 33) and 27 (track 36 0’30) are trios omitting respectively the bass and soprano parts. Section 27 is rather starkly different from most of the other verses in terms of its texture, being written in pure fauxbourdon. The altus voice has no notated music at this point, but instead bears the inscription ‘Et laudamus quere cum tenore in dyatessaron’ (‘look for the et laudamus in the tenor part, at the fourth [above]’). The bassus is mostly in thirds with the tenor, moving out to a fifth at the two cadences (and hence to an octave with the altus). The overall feel is of a considerably earlier repertory than the rest of the work.
As noted above, Lupi adds a final section which repeats the last two words; this is in triple time for the first time since the midpoint of the piece, though this time in a proportional notation which implies a faster tempo. The canticle is rounded off with a rapid rising phrase in stretto.
Although its text begins identically to that of the canticle for Lauds, Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel is a free-standing motet, set in responsory (A-B-C-B) form with a concluding Amen. The piece is of modest proportions, running to 103 breves of which the repeated B section takes twelve and the Amen four. The motet opens with pair imitation: first the tenor and bassus state the distinctive head motif with its rising and falling semitone, and then the superius and altus repeat the same cell above fresh counterpoint in the lower voices. In both partes the repetendum (i.e. the B section) is heralded with a full cadence onto the fifth scale degree, and in general the form is clearly articulated throughout.
Stephen Rice © 2020
The Sunday Times