Composition - - American Recorder Society
Vive le roi
By Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521)
 Arranged By Peter Seibert 2021
This short, terrific work is a tour de force by a master composer with a mathematical mind.  Three parts are in canon: they are essentially identical throughout, just starting on different pitches and beats.  The rhythms get more complex as the piece progresses. If a group is to play this together, it could be helpful to have players speak their parts in unison, all starting simultaneously.  Clarity of rhythms is essential.

The third part holds the cantus firmus.  Why these particular notes?  It turns out that this is a soggetto cavato dalle vocali (a “subject carved from the vowels”) on the title of the piece.  Only the vowels are used; the consonants are discarded. This is how a soggetto cavato works:

The vowels of the title are matched with the vowels of their solfege equivalents.  The solfege syllables ut-re-mi-fa-sol-la become familiar to us in the 21st c. when we realize that do now replaces ut, but ut was all that was used in Josquin’s day. 

The title Vive le roi, minus the consonants, becomes  V-I-V-E E O-I.  In those days, the letter V was interchangeable with the letter U.   So, now Josquin matches U-I-U-E E O-I with the solfege syllable vowels, and it becomes ut-mi-ut-re re sol-mi, which corresponds to the notes C-E-C-D D G-E, and that is the cantus firmus, an homage to the King of France.  The cantus firmus is stated three times, the second statement starts on G.  And somehow, Josquin makes it all work together with the complex three-part canon. What brilliance!

This is a rare piece by Josquin clearly intended for wind players, and what fun it is to play!

On the recording, four half-note beats are sounded before the entrance of part 2 Alto.
-- Peter Seibert
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Arrangements and Transcriptions
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Recorded Accompaniment, Renaissance/Baroque/Classical