Josquin des Prez (1440-1521) is one of the most significant composers in 16th century. He is widely considered to be the first master of the high Renaissance style of polyphonic music. He wrote both sacred and secular music including masses, motets and chansons in all of the important vocal forms of the age.
"Ave Mara... Virgo serena" is a four-part voice motet composed by Josquin. It is regarded as one of the most famous motet of the 15th century. Later on, this piece became popular in the 16th century. The early imitation counterpoint is obvious in this piece. It has very clear structure and tonality. Four-highlighted cadence on C divides this piece into four parts, which begins on measure 1, 54, 78 and 111. The opening line shows the lyrical use of imitative counterpoint. Clear imitation for each phrase, which are identical in length. It has duets alternate between voices and often goes into trios. The climax is where these four parts sing together. Subdominant starts become more obvious in this piece and comfortable melodic character appears instead of chromaticism.
Compare with another motet "O bone et dulcissime Jesu" written by Josquin, there are many similarities. They both have four parts voices. Canonic imitation goes through both pieces. The I-V cadencial materials start to play an important part instead of the double leading tone cadence. Like "Ave Mara... Virgo", "O bone et dulcissime Jesu" has the same climax that four parts sing together on measure 88. However, the "O bone et dulcissime Jesu" doesn't have that many alternative activity like "Ave Mara.. virgo serena" does.
I pick up this piece because I am interested in why it was such famous and popular at that period of time. Over all, I realized that becuse of the texture, it seems like a revolution that opens a style featuring early imitative counterpoint and influences the later composers from this era.
“Josquin des Prez - Ave Maria (Virgo Serena).” Youtube video. Posted by “bartje1.” Uploaded Jun 7, 2009. Accessed on February 9, 2014. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xt3H2uGxFLI
Des Pres, Josquin. Ave Maria...virgo serena. Score. IMSLP. Accessed February 9, 2014.http://conquest.imslp.info/files/imglnks/usimg/c/c3/IMSLP129920-PMLP48553-DesPrez_Ave_Maria.pdf