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Salve radix


Transcription by Theodor Dumitrescu

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Source Loc. Title Voices Attribution
Salue radix


LonBLR 11 E.xi
Salve radix incipit: LonBLR 11 E.xi


Salve radix varios producens germine ramos
quos inter ramus supereminet altior unus
Cuius et ex summo purpura rosa micat
qua stant unanimes pax et Iusticia septe
claudunturque foras dissona corda senum.
Hail, Root, begetting varying branches from the sprout,
Among which one branch rises above,
From whose top the scarlet rose gleams;
By which Peace and Justice stand enclosed in accord;
And the dissonant hearts of the aged are closed outside.

Editor's Commentary

A double-canon 4 ex 2 at the upper fourth, distinguished in its unique source by its notational form: each of the two notated voices is written on a circular staff surrounding a painted red rose. As the opening composition of LonBLR 11 E.xi (preceded only by a full-page illustration which incorporates part of this work's text, as well as the full text of the following piece, Sampson's Psallite felices), Salve radix clearly serves in a dedicatory capacity of some sort. Its enigmatic text can be explained mainly by reference to the opening illustration, as a paean to the multi-flowered plant which represents the Tudor dynasty (see the Introduction to A Choirbook for Henry VIII and his Sisters).[1]

Musically, the composition belongs to a tradition of four-voice double-canon writing cultivated largely in the first decades of the 16th century.[2] Although the double-canons at the upper fourth are so restricted in terms of contrapuntal options that they all necessarily share a considerable amount of musical material, Salve radix exhibits a close relationship in particular to Josquin's En lombre dung buysonnet. The near-duplication of multi-measure passages of the latter work in Salve radix, as well as the absorption of brief melodic figures and restrictions (e.g., the lower voices change pitch breve-by-breve), indicates that this is a case of deliberate musical modeling.

On a larger scale, however, the borrowings from En lombre dung buysonnet give way to a formal structure unique to the present composition. Twelve brief polyphonic segments, delimited unambiguously by the standard staggered cadential formula employed in this type of canon, are ordered in such a way as to produce the roughly palindromic structure ABCB'A' (corresponding neatly to the work's circular notational form):

Measures: 1-8 9-27 28-32 33-49 50-63
Section: A B C B' A'

Within this layout, the editor's contrapuntal analysis of the B and B' sections suggests a compositional intention to cause a performative "pitch spiral," in modern terms the gradual addition of flats following the cycle of fifths (B-E-A-D-G-C-F). At two points in this interpretation of the pitch material, the flatward motion ends leaving performers to continue the work a half-step lower than before, represented in the present transcription by editorial key signature changes before mm. 28 and 50 (turn on/off by selecting "View->Pitch System->Modern accidentals/signatures").

Canonic instructions: "Canon fuga In diatessaron." above each voice

[1] There is certainly no hint that the text celebrates the 1515/16 birth of Mary Tudor, as suggested in previous studies.

[2] For the compositional process and analysis summarized here, see Theodor Dumitrescu, 'Constructing a Canonic Pitch Spiral: The Case of Salve Radix', in Canons and Canonic Techniques, 14th - 16th Centuries: Theory, Practice, and Reception History. Proceedings of the International Conference, Leuven, 4-6 October 2005, ed. Katelijne Schiltz and Bonnie J. Blackburn (Leuven: Peeters, 2007), pp. 141-70.

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