THE PEAK (AND LIMIT) OF STYLISTIC REFINEMENT
Passages from two pithy motets in Byrd’s Gradualia, one from each book, show the ultimate degree of refinement not just of Byrd’s art but of the whole art of Catholic church polyphony. Ave verum corpus, the sacramentary hymn for the feast of Corpus Christi, is probably the best known piece from these late books, possibly Byrd’s best known sacred work outside of the Masses. Partly because its text is a hymn, and partly because of the way (reminiscent of the ending of Josquin’s Ave Maria) it addresses Christ using the first person singular, it is one of Byrd’s most unwaveringly chordal settings. Not only that, the motet is virtually without conventional dissonance; even cadential suspensions are often avoided. At the same time the harmony is famously wayward and, by implication, discordant. Why the seeming contradiction between the stark simplicity of the texture and the fractious harmonic ambience? As usual, the answer is to be sought in the domain of rhetoric.
- Citation (MLA):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 16 The End of Perfection." The Oxford History of Western Music. Oxford University Press. New York, USA. n.d. Web. 20 Oct. 2014. <http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016013.xml>.
- Citation (APA):
- Taruskin, R. (n.d.). Chapter 16 The End of Perfection. In Oxford University Press, Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century. New York, USA. Retrieved 20 Oct. 2014, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016013.xml
- Citation (Chicago):
- Richard Taruskin. "Chapter 16 The End of Perfection." In Music from the Earliest Notations to the Sixteenth Century, Oxford University Press. (New York, USA, n.d.). Retrieved 20 Oct. 2014, from http://www.oxfordwesternmusic.com/view/Volume1/actrade-9780195384819-div1-016013.xml