Canticum Canticorum (Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina)

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General information

Title: Canticum Canticorum - Songs of Solomon
Original title: Motettorum – Liber Quartus
Composer: Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SATTB (1-18, 29)
Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SAATB (19-22, 27-28)
Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SSATB (23-26)

Genre: SacredMotet

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

Publication date and place: 1584 Rome: Alessandro Gardano
  2nd published: 1587 Venice: Angelo Gardano

Description: The Song of Songs (Hebrew title שיר השירים, Shir ha-Shirim), is a book of the Hebrew Bible—Tanakh or Old Testament—one of the five megillot (scrolls). It is also known as the Song of Solomon or as Canticles, the latter from the shortened and anglicized Vulgate title Canticum Canticorum, "Song of Songs" in Latin. It is known as Aisma in the Septuagint, which is short for ῏Αισμα ᾀσμάτων, Aisma aismatôn, "Song of Songs" in Greek.

The Song of Songs is thought by some to be a allegorical representation of the relationship of God and Israel as husband and wife. Literally, however, the main characters of the Song are simply a woman and a man, and the poem suggests movement from courtship to consummation. It is one of the shortest books in the Bible, consisting of only 117 verses. According to Ashkenazi tradition, it is read on the Sabbath that falls during the intermediate days of Passover. In the Sephardi Jewish community it is recited every Friday night. (Above is the brief wikipedia article - Use link below to see full article.)

The pieces in this collection are modally organised.
It means that the first 10 motets are in the transposed Dorian mode. Key signature one flat, finalis on G, high clefs (G2, C2, C3, F3).
Pieces 11-18 are in Mixolydian mode. No key signature, finalis on G, high clefs (G2, C2, C3, C4). Here the bass is notated in C4 clef, unlike in the Dorian pieces (F3).
Pieces 19-24 are in Phrygian mode. No key signature, finalis on E (Nos. 20-24), or A (No. 19). Low clefs (C1, C3, C4, F4).
Pieces 25-29 are in Lydian (or Ionian) mode. Key signature one flat, finalis on F. High clefs (G2, C2, C3, F3).

The distribution of the voices also shows a pattern. In the Dorian and Myxolidian pieces (those ending on G) the doubled voice is the Tenor, just as in the last piece of this motet book, which rounds this motet book off.
In the Phrygian and Lydian pieces (with the exception of No. 29) either the Soprano or the Alto is doubled.

Palestrina did not set the whole book of Song of Songs, only some long passages of it.
1,1-3,2 (with the exception of 2,15) Motets 1-8, 11-18. (Dorian and Myxolidian motets)
4,7-4,10 Motets 9-10. (Dorian motets. Later insertion?)
5,8-5,12 Motets 19-20. (Phrygian motets)
6,1-6,4a Motets 21-22. (Phrygian motets)
6,9-6,10 Motets 23-24. (Phrygian motets)
7,1-7,12 Motets 25-29. (Lydian motets)


List of works

Index Title Translation
1 Osculetur me (osculo oris sui) Let him kiss me (with the kiss of his mouth)
2 Trahe me post te Draw me after you
3 Nigra sum, sed formosa I am black but comely
4 Vineam meam non custodivi My vineyard I have not kept
5 Si ignoras te If you do not know
6 Pulchrae sunt genae tuae Thy cheeks are beautiful
7 Fasciculus myrrhae (dilectus meus mihi) A bundle of myrrh (is my beloved to me)
8 Ecce tu pulcher es Behold thou art fair
9 Tota pulchra es You are altogether beautiful
10 Vulnerasti cor meum You have ravished my heart
11 Sicut lilium inter spinas As the lily among thorns
12 Introduxit me rex (in cellam vinariam) He brought me (into the cellar of wine)
13 Laeva eius (sub capite meo) His left hand (is under my head)
14 Vox dilecti mei The voice of my beloved
15 Surge, propera amica mea Arise, my love
16 Surge, amica mea, (speciosa mea et veni) Arise, my love, (my fair one, and come away)
17 Dilectus meus mihi, (et ego illi) My beloved is mine, (and I am his)
18 Surgam et circuibo civitatem I will rise and go about the city
19 Adiuro vos (filiae Jerusalem) I charge you, (O ye daughters of Jerusalem)
20 Caput eius (aurum optimum) His head (is as the finest gold)
21 Dilectus meus descendit (in hortum suum) My beloved is gone down (into his garden)
22 Pulchra es, amica mea Thou art beautiful, O my love
23 Quae est ista (quae progreditur quasi) Who is she (that cometh like the dawn)
24 Descendi in hortum nucum I went down into the garden of nuts
25 Quam pulchri sunt (gressus tui in calceamentis) How graceful are (your feet in sandals)
26 Duo ubera tua (sicut duo hinnuli) Thy two breasts are like two young roes
27 Quam pulchra es et quam decora How fair and pleasant you are
28 Guttur tuum sicut (vinum optimum) Thy throat is like (the best wine)
29 Veni, veni, dilecte mi, (egrediamur in agrum) Come, my beloved, (let us go forth into the fields)

Works at CPDL

Title Year No. Genre Subgenre Vo. Voices
Adiuro vos 1584 19 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Caput eius 1584 20 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Descendi in hortum nucum 1584 24 Sacred Motets 5 SSATB
Dilectus meus descendit 1584 21 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Dilectus meus mihi 1584 17 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Duo ubera tua 1584 26 Sacred Motets 5 SSATB
Ecce tu pulcher es 1584 8 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Fasciculus myrrhae 1584 7 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Guttur tuum sicut 1584 28 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Introduxit me rex 1584 12 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Laeva eius 1584 13 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Nigra sum, sed formosa 1584 3 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Osculetur me 1584 1 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Pulchra es amica mea 1584 22 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Pulchrae sunt genae tuae 1584 6 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Quae est ista quae progreditur 1584 23 Sacred Antiphons 5 SSATB
Quam pulchra es 1584 27 Sacred Motets 5 SAATB
Quam pulchri sunt 1584 25 Sacred Motets 5 SSATB
Si ignoras te 1584 5 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Sicut lilium inter spinas I 1584 11 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Surgam et circuibo civitatem 1584 18 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Surge amica mea 1584 16 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Surge propera a 5 1584 15 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Tota pulchra es 1584 9 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Trahe me post te 1584 2 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Veni, veni dilecte mi 1584 29 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Vineam meam non custodivi 1584 4 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Vox dilecti mei 1584 14 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB
Vulnerasti cor meum 1584 10 Sacred Motets 5 SATTB


External links