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Dulcis amica dei 3v · Prioris

Appearance in the five chansonniers:

*Laborde ff. 139v-140 »Dulcis amica dei« 3v PDF · Facsimile

Other musical sources:

*Amiens 162 D f. 117v »Dulcis amica dei« 3v PDF
Cambrai 125-128 no. 181 »Dulcis amica dei« 4v (A “si placet”)
*Cambridge 1760 f. 2 »Dulcis amica dei« 3v Prioris PDF
*Cop 1848 p. 430 »Dulcis amica dei« 3v PDF
London 31922 ff. 88v-89 »Dulcis amica dei« 3v
London 35087 ff. 61v-62 »Dulcis amica dei« 3v
*Paris 1597 ff. 4v-5 »Dulcis amica dei« 4v PDF· Facsimile
*Paris 2245 ff. 31v-32 [Without text] 4v PDF · Facsimile
Sankt Gallen 462 p. 9 »Dulcis Maria dei« 4v Facsimile
Sankt Gallen 463 no. 140 »Dulcis amica dei« 4v (S and CA only) Facsimile
*Uppsala 76a ff. 55v-56 »Dulcis amica dei« 4v Prioris PDF

Antico 1521/7 no. 19 »Dulcis amica dei« 4v (A only)

Tablatures, later sources and citations, Fallows 1999, pp. 580-581.

Edition: Rokseth 1930 no. 4 (Laborde).

Text: Latin hymn, lauda, one stanza. Full text in all voices in Laborde and many other sources.

Dulcis amica dei,
Rosa vernans, Stella decora,
tu memor esto mei
dum mortis venerit hora.

Sweet friend of God
flowering rose, bright star,
you will remember me

when the hour of death arrives.

Evaluation of the source:

A late additon to the bound Laborde chansonnier; entered by Hand E after c. 1480; a faultless copy of an exemplar containing among other songs »La grant paine que yo sento« 3v (ff. 137v-138), which also appears next to »Dulcis amica dei« in Amiens 162 and Copenhagen 1848, and »Consomo la vita mya« 4v (ff. 136v-137) by Prioris, all entered consecutively at the same occasion.

It is notated without key signature in Laborde, while most of the other sources have a signature of one flat in all voices. The scribe apparently found it obvious how the song should be performed and thus the key signature superfluous. We find exactly the same situation in the French chansonnier of c. 1500, Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, MS f.fr. 1597, where a quite heavy-handed contratenor has been added to the three-part texture (see the edition).

In details and notation the Laborde version is very close to the version, which was added to the MS Amiens 162 D (f. 117v) at some time during the first decades of the 16th century, or the textless three-part version originally copied into the last blank pages of the French chansonnier in Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, MS f.fr. 2245, around 1500, or the French MS in Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys 1760, from the first decade of the 16th century, which attributes the song to the royal chapel master, Denis Prieur, known as Prioris. The two last-mentioned sources were like Laborde connected with French court circles (see the editions above, or the comments in Prioris 1982, Vol. III, pp. XI-XIII).

Comments on text and music:

The short prayer is set in declamatory lines, articulated by fermatas. The successive entrance of the voices in its opening signals an imitative-polyphonic style, but the dominant feature soon becomes the parallel thirds between the upper voices. The three-part version is effectively entreating and quite elegant in its simplicity. In accordance with the popular lauda-style the upper voices are kept within a very narrow range (the tenor c’-f’) for the first three lines; only in the last line, “when the hour of death arrives”, the full ranges of an octave are explored, and the turn in sound in the flat direction underscores the plea.

The song was popular in the last decades of the 15th and the first half of the 16th centuries and enjoyed a wide circulation, often with a fourth part added to fill out the thin texture. Concerning the different four-part versions see further the comments on the Amiens 162 D edition.

Concerning the identity of Prioris, see the article by Theodor Dumitrescu, ‘Who Was “Prioris”? A Royal Composer Recovered’, Journal of the American Musicological Society 65 (2012), pp. 5-66 (comments on “Dulcis amica dei” pp. 31-36).

See also the comments and lists of related compositions in Christoffersen 1994, Vol. II, p. 160, and Fallows 1999, pp. 580-581.

PWCH December 2013