Musicus Online Museum

Motet: Obsecro te

From New Josquin Edition, vol. 24.8, ed. Willem Elders; reproduced with permission:

Motet: Obsecro te (Anonymous, late fifteenth century)

There were many prayers to the Mother of God in the Book of Hours, the most popular devotional book of the late Middle Ages. Mary played the all-important role as intercessor for the devotee for the medieval Christian. One of the more widespread Marian prayers found in devotional books was the “Obsecro te” (“I beseech you”). It is written in the first person singular – thus the devotee says “I” and “me.” There are surprisingly few musical settings of the Obsecro te, however. This example survives in a single printed source from 1547, a peculiar book of arrangements of choral pieces for vihuela, an early guitar-like instrument from Spain. It is attributed in the source to Josquin des Prez, the most celebrated composer of the late fifteenth century. But this particular source attributes other works to Josquin that are not his, and there is no incontrovertible evidence to suggest that this too is the work of Josquin. The original version for guitar provides a small excerpt of the prayer to the Virgin. In an effort to retrieve the lost vocal version of this work, the editors of the New Josquin Edition have attempted to set the text of the prayer to the music.

Obsecro te, Domina Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, pietate plenissima, summi regis filia, Mater gloriosissima, Mater orphanorum, consolatio desolatorum, quam filius tuus unigenite coronavit. Salva me, honorificentia populi mei. I implore you, Holy Lady Mary, Mother of God, most full of piety, daughter of the highest king, most glorious Mother, Mother of orphans, consolation of the desolate, whom your only begotten son crowned. Save me, you who are the highest honor of my people.


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