HEN YOU LISTEN to this wonderful piece by Philippe Verdelot, pay special attention to the cadence ending the polyphony. The penultimate chord is almost a Dominant Seventh, 1 which is truly remarkable when we consider that Verdelot died in 1532AD.
Scroll down to hear rehearsal videos created to help your choir.
This piece almost constitutes a “mini course” in music history. The techniques used by Verdelot—imitation, stretto, polyphonic lines as opposed to homophony, and so forth—would be used for the next 250 years…and never surpassed. (I say this as someone who loves Chopin dearly.) In that sense, Verdelot was similar to Cristóbal de Morales; both were ahead of their time. 2 The hymn tune is the same melody from which we get Solfège (i.e. DO RE MI FA SOL LA TI DO), except it’s a special version from Mocquereau’s 1903 Liber Usualis. In my opinion, this version is infinitely more beautiful than the one found in the Editio Vaticana. An organ accompaniment can also be downloaded.
We have often stressed that books like the Jogues Pew Missal contain the complete Mass Propers—the official prayers of the Mass. However, as this piece shows, our liturgical heritage also contains numerous treasures no longer part of the official Missal, Lectionary, or Gradual.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 I speak of the way it sounds to our modern ears, not the way Verdelot would have thought about or analyzed it.
2 These composers were not the only ones using such techniques, but I’m here speaking of the perfection with which they did so.