Composer: Josquin Desprez (1450-1521)

Piece: Ave Maria ... virgo serena (Hail Mary ... gentle Virgin)

Date: 1476

Form: Sacred Motet

Characteristics: Chant to the Virgin Mary heard at beginning only. Most of the motet is freely composed

Texture: 4-voice polyphony and homophony

Text: Rhymed poem to the Virgin Mary (a couplet, 5 quatrains, closing couplet)

This motet, a canticle praising the Virgin Mary, is rich with expressive feeling. Josquin experiments with contrasts between high and low pairs of voices (S/A and T/B) and with frequent changes of texture (imitative polyphony and broad homophony). These changes of texture also reflect differences of text declamation. Meter changes as well, from duple to triple and back again.


The most moving moment of the motet, Josquin’s personal plea at the end; “O Mother of God, remember me”, is set homophonically to the longest notes in the piece, ensuring their comprehensibility.