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O salutaris hostia


Transcription by Frans Wiering

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Source: Hymn "Verbum supernum prodiens", stanza 5

O salutaris hostia

Que celi pandis ostium

Bella premunt hostilia

Da robur fer auxilium
O saving Host,

You who open the gate of heaven -

Hostile wars press upon us -

Give strength, bring aid.

Editor's Commentary

The five-voice writing makes this setting of O salutaris hostia more elaborate than the preceding ones in the Occo Codex. There are two Tenors, one with a slightly higher range than the other, but with a number of voice crossings. The Superius has a very high tessitura, moving most of the time between c'' and g''. As a consequence, the total range of the piece (two octaves and a sixth) is considerably larger than that of the other settings of the same text in this source.

Sonority seems to have been the most important consideration in the composition of this piece. The four phrases begin in nearly strict homophony, presenting a succession of full consonances, and then develop into a contrapuntally more elaborate ending. The transition is generally marked by a fermata, except in the first phrase, which has a fermata on the word "O". Three out of four cadences display a nearly identical progression between Superius (d''-c''-d'') and second Tenor (g/a-c'-a), in which the combination of suspension and false relation seems inevitable, or even deliberately introduced. Maybe to bring out these clashes more dramatically, dissonances are used sparingly outside the cadences.

Compared to sonority, voice leading seems to have been a less important consideration. The inner voices lack melodic distinction and regularly contain successions of leaps, some of which are evidently there to evade parallel fifths and/or octaves. This contrapuntal style places the piece at a transitional stage, offering an example of true five-voice writing without a long-note cantus firmus, but still before five-part writing was standardized in the through-imitative writing of the 1520s and 1530s.

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