Victimae Paschali Laudes

Adrian Willaert

edited:Edward Wickham

  Cat. 0015     High pitch
Low pitch
  Genre: Motet (Sequence text)  
  Liturgical Use: Mass on Easter Day  
  Vocal Disposition: SSATTB (high)
AATTBarB (Low)

  Price: £2.75  

Though relatively neglected today, Adrian Willaert was one of the most celebrated of that line of Flemish musicians who made their way south, attracted by the large salaries paid to musicians in Renaissance Italy. His reputation stemmed both from his compositions, which later generations were to regard as the culmination of the prima prattica, and his work as a teacher, with pupils such as Andrea Gabrieli, Cipriano de Rore and the theorist Gioseffo Zarlino.

It is Zarlino who gives us, in his Dimonstrationi Harmoniche (1571), most information about Willaert's early life: travelling to Paris to study law, he was soon wooed to music by Jean Mouton, then in the service of the French King. It seems that this connection led Willaert to Italy, where by 1515 he was in the employ of the D'Este's, first Cardinal Ippolito I and later Don Alfonso. In 1527 Willaert was appointed to be maestro di capella at St Mark's, Venice, a post which he held until his death. It is barely conceivable that the musical life of Venice would have become so rich and dynamic at the end of the 16th century had it not been for Willaert's towering influence.

Willaert's six part setting of Victimae Paschali Laudes is contained in a monumental collection of the composer's motets and madrigals, Musica Nova, published in 1559 by the famous Venetian publishing house of Antonio Gardane.  However, its use of a cantus firmus which, although migrating through the voices, is treated relatively strictly, suggests that the work dates from an earlier period in Willaert's career.  This is plausible since Musica Nova, dedicated to Duke Alfonso D'Este of Ferrara, seems to be a collection of music from a wide period, music which, according to a dedicatory poem, lay "concealed and buried".  The text and chant which lies at the structural heart of the piece is a sequence for Easter, not often incorporated into polyphony but frequently heard as part of liturgical dramas.

Text and Translation

Victimae paschali laudes immolent Christiani. Christians, to the pascal victim offer your thankful praises.
Agnus redemit oves: Christus innocens Patri reconciliavit peccatores. A lamb has redeemed the sheep: Christ, being innocent, has reconciled sinners to the Father.
Mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: dux vitae mortuus, regnat vivus. Death and Life have fought in wondrous battle: the Prince of Life, once dead, now reigns living.
Dic nobis Maria, quid vidisti in via? Tell us, Mary, what did you see in the way? 
Sepulcrum Christi viventis, et gloriam vidi resurgentis: I saw the tomb of the living Christ, and the glory of the Risen one:
Angelicos testes, sudarium, et vestes The angels who were witnesses, the shroud and the graveclothes.
Surrexit Christus spes mea: praecedet suos in Galilaeam. Christ, our hope, has arisen: he goes before his people into Galilee.
Credendum est magis soli Mariae veraci: quam Iudeorum turbae fallaci. Truthful Mary is more to be believed than the false crowd of lying Jews.

Scimus Christum surrexisse a mortuis vere: tu nobis, victor Rex, miserere. We know that Christ is truly risen from the dead: O Victor King, have mercy upon us.


Musica Nova, 1559, Antonio Gardane.

Editorial Procedures and Conventions

Clefs and signatures: The original clefs and signatures are indicated in the prefatory staves.
Note values and barring:
Note values have been halved.
Transposition: In the SSATTB the original pitch has been retained.
In the low pitch version for AATBarBarB the pitch has been lowered by a perfect fourth
Voice designations and ranges:
The editorís voice designations are given after the prefatory staves. The ranges of each part are indicated at the pitch of the modern edition.
Accidentals given in the source are shown within the stave.
Accidentals which are implied by the rules of musica ficta are provided editorially above the notes.
Text and Underlay: Text underlay given explicitly in the source is printed in the normal serif typeface. Editorial verbal repetitions indicated in the source by the sign ij are shown in italics. Latin spelling and punctuation have been standardised.

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