Salve radix (The Rose Canon) (Anonymous)

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Editor: Edward Tambling (submitted 2011-10-22).   Score information: A4, 4 pages, 57 kB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: In original key for ATTB


General Information

Title: Salve radix
Composer: Anonymous

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: ATTB
Genre: SacredMotet

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

 Manuscript 1516 in Royal 11 E. xi, no. 1

Description: This unique piece consists of a two-in-one canon at the upper fourth, and both canonic parts are notated on a circular stave, on facing pages of the source, which each surround the image of a rose, representative of the House of Tudor (as perhaps is the enigmatic text of the piece). The visual element of the each circle is more than purely decorative; the piece is laid out as follows, in a palindromic form:

Bars and (sections): 1-8 (A), 9-27 (B), 28-32 (C), 33-49 (B') and 50-63 (A')

At two separate points does the music force itself down a semitone through the necessity to add musica ficta successively in the form of flats (this treatment is, unlike the usual implications of musica ficta, mandatory for the integrity of the harmony of this piece, and not merely supplementary or cadentially decorative); this has here been indicated editorially through the use of modern key signatures (not present in the source) which represent a writing out of the musica ficta required by each of the two successive 'pitch spirals', which necessitates the use of a practically inadmissable B double-flat in the key signatures of the [Superius] [Alto] and the [Tenor] [Tenor II] (an extra flat is necessary for these parts if they are to be identical transpositions of their respective canonic sources).

Royal 11 E. xi is the sole source for this work (the spiral pages are the first musical items of the set), and is yet anonymous; a possible ascription might be to Petrus de Opiciis, perhaps the originator or commissioner of the work (there is an inscription on the first, otherwise blank page of the manuscript which reads, "Me fieri ac componi fecit PO 1516" [P. O. caused me to be made and assembled, 1516.], perhaps Petrus himself), and whose son Benedictus de Opiciis' motet Sub tuum praesidium is contained elsewhere in the manuscript.

External websites:

Original text and translations

Latin.png Latin text

Salve radix varios producens germine ramos
quos inter ramus supereminet altior unus,
cuius et ex summo purpura rosa micat,
qua stant unanimes pax et Iustitia septe,
claudunturque foras dissona corda senum.

English.png English translation

Translation by Edward Tambling
Hail, Root, bringing forth varying branches from the bud,
Among which one branch rises above,
From whose top the purple rose gleams;
By which Peace and Justice stand enclosed and united;
And the dissonant hearts of old men are closed outside.