HEN I FIRST ENCOUNTERED Guerrero’s SANCTUS & HOSANNA, I wasn’t impressed; but then I began to look deeper. I noticed how Guerrero places the ancient chant “Beata Mater” as a Trope in the Soprano, then—to add variety—moves it to the Alto. Scholars are divided on whether, in fact, the Trope would have been sung. 1 It turns out the marvelous melody we mentioned earlier was taken from the end of the chant—how cool is that?
I recorded all the voice parts myself to give an idea how it sounds:
The second half of the SANCTUS is based on that same motif. Those Renaissance composers certainly did appreciate “order and structure” in their compositions, and that’s part of what makes their music so great. 2
We don’t spend time denigrating the work of others on this blog. That being said, it is obscene for today’s “liturgical” composers to offer their works as substitutes for composers like Guerrero, Victoria, Nanini, and Palestrina. Comparing them would be like comparing my bank account to Michael Jordan’s—but judge for yourself! Sing through the Tenor line. Sing through the Alto line. See for yourself how dazzling Guerrero can be!
This is the 1st Section only. I hope to add the 2nd Section (“Benedictus”) soon. 3
REHEARSAL VIDEOS :
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 We have very little information about the precise way this music would have been performed. People have all kinds of hypotheses—for example, regarding whether instruments would have been used—but things get hairy when you ask them “How did you arrive at your conclusion?” I have no trouble believing that the text of this Trope would have been sung. On the other hand, secular songs were also included in such scores, and I’m not sure those would have been sung. Here’s what a famous musicologist told me recently:
Such an inclusion of the text of a source of a cantus firmus is often seen in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. In manuscripts I’ve seen in color, these texts are often red—so maybe “sing the black, think the red.” Stranger things have been done, but I doubt that they would have sung the text of the song.
In any event, we are not allowed to sing Tropes in the Extraordinary Form. That’s why I added the text in italics.
2 By the way, Guerrero has a distinct compositional style, and several of his traits are shown in this Mass setting: penchant for canons; “sneaking in” voices on odd beats, outlining tritones, and even skips of a seventh (over a rest).
3 At the conclusion of the “Benedictus,” the same HOSANNA is sung.