Home | About ARSIS | New Releases | Best Sellers | Catalog | ARSIS News | Order
A Premier Catalog of Premiere Recordings


CD160  Music by Jacobus Clemens non Papa  



Music by Jacobus Clemens non Papa

The Choir of the The Church of the Advent
Edith Ho, Music Director
Ross Wood, Associate Conductor

  • Notes by Ellen S. Beebe, Ph.D.
  • Complete texts and translations
  • 66'41" total playing time

CD160     $15.95

Add to cart


  Missa Gaude lux Donatiane
1.   Kyrie (SAATB)
2.   *Gloria (SAATB)
3.   *Credo (SAATB)
4.   Sanctus & Benedictus (SAATB)
5.   Agnus Dei (SAATBB)
6. Motet Super ripam Jordanis (SAATB)
7. Motet Peccantem me quotidie (SATB)
8. *Motet Maria Magdalene et altera Maria (SSATB)
9. Motet Dum complerentur dies Pentecostes (SSATB)
    *Ross Wood, Associate Conductor

Jacobus Clemens non Papa

Neither the date of birth nor the date of death of the composer known as Clemens non Papa (probably born Jacob or Jacques Clement) is known for certain. Since the earliest work that can be attributed to him with certainty was published in 1536, the date of his birth is estimated to be around 1510. A chanson attributed to "Clemens non Papa" appears in a set of manuscript partbooks copied in 1542 for the merchant Zeghere van Male of Bruges, Belgium; this is the earliest documented use of the nickname "non Papa" ("not the Pope"). Since Pope Clement VII had died in 1534 it seems likely that the nickname was intended as a joke rather than as a way to distinguish between people with similar names.

Clemens non Papa had been ordained a priest by March 1544, when "Jacobus Clement Prbo" [presbytero, i.e.e, priest] was nominated as succentor (i.e., subcantor, also responsible for training the choirboys) for the Church of St. Donation in Bruges. He remained there until June 1545. From then until 1549, he served as choirmaster for Philippe de Croy, Duke of Aerschot, an important general serving Emperor Charles V, who at the time ruled most of Europe except France and England. The composer's secular motets for Charles V probably date from this period. After Philippe de Croy's death, Clemens was employed for a few months in 1550 by the Marian Brotherhood at 'sHertogenbosch, where he composed a motet for seven voices setting the order's motto.

After 1550 the composer drops from view. He may have been at or near Leiden, where the six choirbooks of St. Peter's Church preserve a large number of his compositions. Recent research by Henri Vanhulst has revealed a possible reason for the obscurity of Clemens' later years: a 1553 letter from Philippe de Croy's son in response to a request for information about the composer form Emperor Randolph II of Austria refers to the composer as a "great drunkard who leads a bad life" (i.e., the composer probably did not practice the celibacy required of a priest); needless to say, Clemens did not get the job. [See Henri Valhulst, "Clemens non Papa 'grant yvroigne et mal vivant' (1553)," Beyond Contemporary Fame: Reassessing the Art of Clemens non Papa and Thomas Crecquillon, ed. Eric Jas (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols Publishers, 2005), pp. 17-25.] Clemens' motet "Hic est vere martyr" bears the annotation "ultimum opus Clementis non Papas anno 1555 21 aprilis." That annotation; the fact that ten of the Souterliedekens (Dutch metrical Psalms) attributed to Clemens and published in 1556 and 1557 were actually completed by their publisher, Tylman Susato; and the existence of a lament for Clemens by the Dutch composer Jacob Vaet (1529-1567) all suggest that Clemens had died by 1556.

In the course of his relatively brief career, Clemens non Papa composed fifteen Masses, two sets of eight Magnificat settings, the set of Dutch Psalms, and some eighty chansons. However, it is for his motets that Clemens non Papa was (and is) most renowned. About 230 motets are attributed to him. Even discounting those also attributed to Thomas Crecquillon, Pierre de Manchicourt, and other contemporaries, they represent an extraordinary large body of work. Most of Clemens' motets were published by Pierre Phalèse of Antwerp, either in collections issued in 1554 and 1555 or in a series of volumes devoted exclusively to works of Clemens non Papa published in 1559. A relatively small number of the motets survive only in manuscripts.

All of the works on this recording probably date from the mid- to late 1540s. Missa Gaude lux Donatiane was likely composed while Clemens was associated with the church of that name. Three of the four motets appear in Brussels, Bibliothèque du Conservatoire, MS. 27088, which may have been copied in 1548. The fourth, Peccantem me quotidie, was published by Susato in 1547.

Missa Gaude lux Donatiane

The church that became the Collegiate Church of St. Donatian in Bruges was founded in the early middle ages when Bruges was only a fortified castle built to protect the Counts of Flanders against Norse invaders. In 842 it was rededicated to St. Donatian, Archbishop of Rheims, the patron saint of Bruges. As the city grew to become an important commercial and cultural center, so did St. Donatian's fame and importance. At the height of its musical importance in the fifteenth century, St. Donatian attracted such leading composers of polyphony as Guillaume Dufay, Johannes Ockeghem, Antoine Busnois, and Jacob Obrecht. After the turn of the sixteenth century, Bruges declined in importance as a center of trade, and St. Donatian no longer had patrons capable of attracting and supporting such musical leaders. The building was destroyed in 1797 during the violence following the French Revolution, but many of its records survive.

In order to obtain the position of succentor at the Church of St. Donatian, Bruges, Clemens non Papa was required to pass a test to prove his proficiency; Missa Gaude lux Donatiane may have been the composition he submitted. The title of the first publication of the Mass, Missa ad imitationem modulandi Gaude lus Donatiane, suggests that it is a parody Mass based on an earlier polyphonic composition. However, although the text of a hymn beginning with these words appears in a medieval rhymed officie for St. Donatian, neither a motet nor a plainchant that could have served as a model for the Mass is known to be extant. Some idea of how the presumed model must have sounded can be found by listening to the themes at the beginnings of the various sections of the Mass. It is likely was melody in Mode 2 on G (somewhat akin to the key of G minor) that began with a theme to which the words Gaude lux Donatianecould easily be set.

Presumbably like its model, the Mass is composed in the style of syntactic imitations: each phrase of text is given a musical subject, which is imitated by one voice after another. Most movements are set as several sections; one or more of them may end on the dominant rather than the final of the mode. Some sections of the longer movements are set for three voices rather than all five. For the final movement, Agnus Dei, Clemens increases the number of voices to six, adding a second bass.

Particularly striking to the ear is the introduction of one or two passages in triple meter in each movement except the Kyrie. While passages in triple meter were often in the mid-sixteenth century to set expressions of joy (such as alleluias or osanna) or references to the Trinity, not all of the passages in triple meter in Clemens' Mass fit this convention; that custom does not explain, for example, why Clemens chose to set qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram ("thou that takest away the sins of the world, receive our prayer") from the Gloria, or the entire Agnus Dei, in triplets. Thus, it seems plausible that a concluding section in triple meter was a distinguishing feature of the original polyphonic composition on which the Mass is thought to be based.

The Advent Choir on ARSIS recordings: