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Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis
Antoine de Févin

Other attributions: Antonius Divitis


Transcription by Marnix van Berchum

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XML score data: Requiem, Kyrie, Si ambulem, Sicut cervus, Domine jhesu criste, Sanctus, Agnus dei, Lux eterna

Sources listed in database

Source Loc. Title Voices Attribution
Missa pro fidelibus defunctis. [incomplete]
"Anthonius diuitis pie memorie +"
Missa pro fidelibus defunctis.
"Anthoni defeuin pie memorie +"
[Missa pro defunctis]
Missa pro fidelibus defunctis.
"Anthonius feuin pie memorie"
Sicut servus (from Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis)
Virga tua (from Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis)


BrusBR IV.922
Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis incipit: BrusBR IV.922
JenaU 5
Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis incipit: JenaU 5
ToleF 23
Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis incipit: ToleF 23
VienNB Mus. 15497
Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis incipit: VienNB Mus. 15497
VienNB Mus. 18832
Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis incipit: VienNB Mus. 18832

Editor's Commentary

This is one of some twenty Requiem masses composed before the middle of the sixteenth century.1 The transmission of Févin's setting centers around the scriptorium of Petrus Alamire, since only one known source (ToleF 23) was not produced by this scriptorium. This manuscript however was probably also copied in the Low Countries, containing miniatures, borders and initials in the Ghent-Bruges style, of the kind which is encountered abundantly in the Alamire manuscripts, thus narrowing the geographical origin of all known sources to the Low Countries.2 The destinations of the sources show a broader geographical area. JenaU 5, VienNB Mus. 15497 and VienNB Mus. 18832 were produced for the German court of Frederick the Wise, Ulrich Pfintzing in Nuremberg, and the residence of Raimund Fugger in Augsburg respectively. BrusBR IV.922 traveled north to the Amsterdam merchant Pompeius Occo. The original recipient of ToleF 23 is not known.3

The three Alamire choirbooks (BrusBR IV.922, JenaU 5 and VienNB 15497) all have decorated initials on the first opening displaying skulls, an image which hardly needs explanation in connection with a Mass of the Dead. The miniatures in the Superius voice of BrusBR IV.922 and JenaU 5 share a similar depiction of a catafalque covered with a cloth and a candle to each side of it (see Illustration 4 in the Introduction of the Occo Codex edition).4 The miniatures in each of the voices of ToleF 23 depict scenes from the resurrection of Christ and the Apocalypse.

Two of the five sources have an attribution to Antoine Févin; the Occo Codex attributes the mass to Antonius Divitis. The latter attribution is most probably a scribal error, on which account Févin seems the most probable composer.5 All three attributions are supplemented with the words "pie memorie" and a cross, meaning this piece was copied after the death (in 1512) and in commemoration of Févin. According to Herbert Kellman the inclusion of this mass in JenaU 5 could also be for another reason, namely the death of a person around the court of Frederick the Wise.6

With exclusion of the Dies ire, Févin sets all of the Ordinary and Proper movements typically associated with the polyphonic Mass of the Dead. Table 1 gives an overview of the mass, including the number of voices for each of the (sub)sections and the voices in which the plainchant intonation and the cantus firmus are given.7

Table 1: Overview of the mass

Section Number of voices Plainchant intonation Cantus firmus
Requiem eternam 4 S S
Te decet 4 T T
Kyrie 4 - S
Si ambulem 4 S S
Virga tua 2 - S
Sicut cervus 2 - S
Sitivit anima mea 3 - S / CT
Fuerunt mihi 4 - S / T
Domine jesu christe 4 S S / T
Hostias et preces 2 S S
Sanctus 5 S S
Benedictus 5 S S
Agnus dei I 5 T1 T1
Agnus dei II 3 T1 T1
Agnus dei III 5 T1 T1
Lux eterna 4 S S / T / B

The number of voices within a single movement or section is consistent throughout the mass; contrast is achieved through changing the number of voices of the different sections (see Table 1). In comparison, in the contemporary Requiem masses of, for example, La Rue and Ockeghem, voice pairing occurs frequently, temporarily reducing the polyphonic fabric of a section.8 Similar to Févin in this aspect would be the setting of Prioris.9 With exception of the start of the 'Virga tua' section (Si ambulem, mm. 74-118) and a short passage in duos in Domine Jesu Christe (mm. 39-51), the mass is set for four voices throughout. These two masses quote each other in at least two prominent instances: mm. 10-13 of the Kyrie (mm. 8-9 in Prioris) and mm. 5-10 of the Superius of Si ambulem (Févin; mm. 5-10 in Prioris). Furthermore the structures of the entrances of the two voices in 'Virga tua' resemble each other. In comparison the mass of Févin shows a more rhythmically diverse fabric; Prioris makes much greater use of homophony.

Pre-existent material: Plainchant Missa pro defunctis, paraphrased usually in Superius or Tenor and occasionally in points of imitation

Requiem mass chant
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, MS lat. 14452, f. 218r-v (Gradual of St. Victor of Paris, 13th century)

[1] Kees van der Vloed's online Requiem Survey (accessed September 2008) lists nineteen polyphonic Requiem masses composed before 1550 of which three are now lost (those of Dufay, Ludford, and De Rhoda) and two which I have not been able to confirm (Argenteil and Cubells). This list includes the two part setting of the section Virga tua by Matheus Pipelare, presumably belonging originally to a full Requiem mass. Furthermore the manuscript VienNB Mus. 18832 transmits an unidentified setting of the Sicut cervus for two voices.
[2] On the relation of the main scribe of ToleF 23 to the Alamire scribe 'K', see Jacobijn Kiel, 'Terminus post Alamire? On some later scribes', in Bruno Bouckaert and Eugeen Schreurs (eds.), The Burgundian-Habsburg Court Complex of Music Manuscripts (1500-1535) and the Workshop of Petrus Alamire (Leuven: Alamire, 2003), pp. 97-105.
[3] For description of the Alamire sources, see their respective entries in Herbert Kellman (ed.), The Treasury of Petrus Alamire: Music and Art in Flemish Court Manuscripts 1500-1535 (Ghent: Ludion, 1999). For a brief description of , see Census Catalogue of Manuscript Sources of Polyphonic Music, 1400-1550, ed. Charles Hamm and Herbert Kellman (5 vols, Neuhausen-Stuttgart: American Institute of Musicology, 1979-88), vol. 3, p. 215.
[4] Similar depictions can be found in the Alamire sources for La Rue's Missa pro Fidelibus defunctis; see Bonnie Blackburn, 'Messages in miniature: pictorial programme and theological implications in the Alamire choirbooks', in Bouckaert and Schreurs (eds.), The Burgundian-Habsburg Court Complex, 169.
[5] See Flynn Warmington, review of Occo Codex (facsim. of Brussels, Royal Library, MS. IV. 922), Notes, 38 (1981): 406-409. The faulty attribution could be due to either the misreading of the attribution in the scribe's model or the illegibility of the rubric noted at the head of the first folio of this mass; for further discussion, see the Introduction to the Occo Codex edition.
[6] See Kellman (ed.), The Treasury, p. 95.
[7] Descriptions and analyses of the mass are given in Harold T. Luce, The Requiem Mass from its Plainsong Beginnings to 1600 (Ph.D. diss., Florida State University, 1958), pp. 171-176, and Edward Henry Clinkscale, The complete works of Antoine de Févin (Ph.D. thesis New York University, 1965), pp. 90-99. An edition of the mass appears in Antoine de Févin, Collected Works, ed. Edward Clinkscale (Ottawa: Institute of Medieval Music, 1980–96), vol. 1, pp. 1-31.
[8] The Requiem masses of both La Rue and Ockeghem were also transmitted in the manuscripts of the Habsburg-Burgundian court scriptorium. Editions of both pieces are given in, respectively: Pierre de la Rue, Opera omnia, ed. Nigel St. John Davison, J. Evan Kreider, and T. Herman Keahey, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 97 (n.p.: American Institute of Musicology, 1990-), vol. v, pp. 102-25; and Johannes Ockeghem, Masses and Mass Sections, ed. Jaap van Benthem (Utrecht: KVNM, 1994–2006), I/4, pp. 1-24.
[9] Févin and Prioris were both associated with the French court of Louis XII and most probably were familiar with each others' works. An edition of this mass is given in Johannes Prioris, Opera omnia, ed. T. Herman Keahey and Conrad Douglas, Corpus Mensurabilis Musicae 90 (n.p.: American Institute of Musicology, 1982–5), vol. ii, pp. 1-28.

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