Ave Maria (Antiphon)

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That the text of Ave Maria is composed of three segmentsLk 1.28, Lk 1.42, and a prayer appended in the 15th centuryis reflected in its musical settings. The Antiphonary of Hartker, for example, a 10th century source from St. Gall (Paléographie musicale, Ser. 2, 2), contains an antiphon that sets only the first segment followed by "Alleluia" (also in Antiphonale monasticum 228 and, in slightly different form, in Liber usualis 1416). Essentially the same melody is given in the 12th century Codex Worcester F. 160 (Paléographie musicale 12:301). The text is also used twice as an offertory antiphononce with only the text previously mentioned and a modern melody (Liber usualis 1318) and once, with Lk 1.42 added and with a medieval melody (Liber usualis 355, found in various early MSS, among them the Codex Montpellier H. 159, PalMus 8:283, where it has two verses beginning "Quomodo in me" and "Ideo quod nascetur"). An even shorter segment of the text, ending with the words "Dominus tecum," is used as an invitatory antiphon in the Codex Worcester, and appears there with two different melodies. None of these four different medieval melodies sets the complete prayer in use today.

Renaissance polyphonists only rarely quoted any of these medieval melodies in setting the Ave Maria. The most celebrated early monument of music printing, Harmonice Musices Odhecaton A (Petrucci, 1501) begins with an Ave Maria by Marbriano de Orto (d. 1529) in which the melody of the first antiphon is only briefly quoted (if at all), and the text ends "Dominus tecum." Vittoria set the text twice without referring to the chant melodies. However, Josquin Desprez's setting opens with a figure very much like that beginning the antiphon, and continues with figures derived from the chant as the basis for sections in polyphonic style on the words "gratia plena," "Dominus tecum," and "benedicta tu"; but from there on his setting seems to be unrelated to the chant. His text includes Lk 1.28 and 1.42 and appends a few more lines, not part of the modern prayer, that replace the section beginning "Sancta Maria." Similarly, the text set for four voices by Palestrina is almost entirely different from the usual text after the words "Sancta Maria." Giacomo Fogliano (14731548), however, provided a simple four-part setting for the complete modern text. The best-known of Renaissance settings of the Ave Maria, that attributed to arcadelt, is really a 19th century adaptation of the music of a secular song by Arcadelt, Nous voyons que les hommes, to the sacred text. Ave Maria has been set by many composers since the Renaissance Schubert's setting is particularly well known and contemporary composers, including Stravinsky, have continued to write music for it.

Bibliography: g. reese, Music in the Middle Ages (New York 1940). r. h. leclercq, Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. f. cabrol, h. leclercq, and h. i. marrou (Paris 190753) 10.2:204362.

[r. steiner]