About Missa Ave maris stella

Dr. Mahrt comments:

At the last Polyphony Weekend, we sang the Missa Ave maris stella by Tomás Luis de Victoria, a late Renaissance Roman-Spanish masterpiece. This Polyphony Weekend we will sing a Mass by Josquin des Prés on the same well-known chant hymn, Ave maris stella.

This Mass was composed almost a century before Victoria's, and even though it is based upon the same chant melody, it is worlds apart from Victoria's Mass. Josquin's work embodies the chant melody in a variety of textures, frequently beginning with paired duets only to blossom out into full four-voice polyphony. The textures range from thoroughgoing imitation to an archaic cantus firmus texture.

All of this is suffused with the wondrous melody, Ave maris stella, whose unique beginning rises a fifth only to go beyond it to a major sixth and an octave, an unusual beginning for a chant. Add to that a remarkable rhythmic style that gives the work variety and an unusual sonority. All of this is in one of Josquin's most suave and attractive Masses, a piece grateful both to sing and to listen to.