Stabat mater (Francesco de Layolle)

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  • (Posted 2018-02-27)  CPDL #48934:     
Editor: Mick Swithinbank (submitted 2018-02-27).   Score information: A4, 22 pages, 156 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: (The description below should be read first.) This edition attempts to remedy at least the worst shortcomings in the presentation of the text, as they are hardly likely to have reflected the composer’s intentions. It also supplies three editorial voice parts to simulate the original texture. The use of the cantus firmus inevitably points to a somewhat more archaic style of composition than is found in most of Layolle’s surviving motets. Meanwhile, even though only two voice parts have survived in the source, they impose such constraints that, in terms of harmony, if not of other aspects, this realisation probably comes quite close to Layolle’s original.

General Information

Title: Stabat mater
Composer: Francesco de Layolle

Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SATTB
Genre: SacredSequence hymn

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1525
Description: The source for the tenor parts of this sequence setting is a set of partbooks probably published in Lyon – the city where the composer was living at the time – around 1525 and which was devoted entirely to motets by him. Unfortunately, only the tenor partbook is extant. In the case of the Stabat mater, indicated as being set for five voices, this means that two voice parts have survived.

Of these, the Secundus Tenor is assigned an untexted five-note cantus firmus, and it is one on which Josquin famously based an entire Mass: La-Sol-Fa-Re-Mi. This is laid out, in the first section, in extremely long note values: maximas, i.e. eight semibreve beats per note. In the two subsequent sections the note values are successively halved, so that in the final section they are reduced to breves. Usually the cantus firmus starts on Tenor’s high E, but occasionally it is pitched a fifth lower, in the only other position where the same melodic shape could be maintained without resorting to accidentals. Against this cantus firmus, Primus Tenor sings a freely composed part. The ranges of the extant voice parts are, for Secundus Tenor, d-e’ (as the above description implies), and, for Primus Tenor, c-f’ (although mostly likewise confined to d-e’), i.e. this part uses the full range available in the C4 clef without resorting to ledger-lines.

Layolle did not make things easy for himself by adopting such an approach to the cantus firmus. The long note values in the first section (which, incidentally, sets 8 verses of the sequence, while the subsequent sections set 6 each) impose considerable harmonic constraints on the composer. To make the task even more difficult, Layolle never rests the cantus firmus voice during the first section, although later he does so: indeed, for as long as 26 breves at the beginning of the third section.

In the first section we get a hint that he may have found his self-imposed task hard going, because from bar 40 there is a passage lasting nearly 10 bars (and this as shown in an edition that uses barlines sparingly – it could just as well have been presented as 20) where the Primus Tenor part is musically identical to that which has appeared in bars 10-19; the same, less surprisingly, applies to the cantus firmus part. This seems to suggest that all the voice parts may well have repeated what Layolle had written earlier.

The underlay of the words is not very clearly indicated in the source, each phrase being printed as a self-contained block in the approximate vicinity of a musical phrase. Moreover, in Part Two, the standard words 'me sentire vim doloris' are omitted from the partbook, presumably in error, as it destroys the sense of the text, then later 'complaceam' appears twice. This is the only textual repetition that occurs, except that the partbook specifically indicates that the words which end each of the three sections of the work are to be repeated. ‘Complaceam’, on the other hand, was presumably only repeated in an attempt to make good the shortfall of text. One musical phrase also has no text whatsoever underlaid to it.

External websites:

Original text and translations

Original text and translations may be found at Stabat Mater.