By Pierre de la Rue (or Josquin des Prez) (c. 1513-1525)
S A T B
The composer of this famous motet is not known for certain. I am not sure how it seems to be a toss up between Josquin and de la Rue.
The text is David’s lament on hearing of the death of his son, Absalon. Grief is the subject of much great music in every culture and every time.
This motet is a superb example of the power of music to express the exquisite emotion. The composer uses nothing as mundane as “word painting.” Instead she makes use of music’s psychological powers to capture the essence of raw emotion. I have always and will always be in awe of the great composers for their abilities to move us so profoundly. At the end of this piece on the words “I shall not live, but descend into Hell lamenting” the composer creates a great descent in direction and harmony from G major to Eb. (in the original pitch, a major sixth lower, that would have been Bb to Gb) He repeats this sequence finishing with the bass part coming to rest on the low G (or Bb), the only one in the piece.
-- Roy Sansom
Play-along files synthesized and contributed by Roy Sansom. Accompaniments are at 4' and 8' pitch. (3/8/21: files have been replaced with slightly slower versions)