Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

Weerbeke [Werbeke, Werbeck], Gaspar [Jaspar, Gaspart] van

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Weerbeke [Werbeke, Werbeck], Gaspar [Jaspar, Gaspart] van

(b Oudenaarde, c1445; d after 1516). Franco-Flemish composer. He is one of the main representatives of the Franco-Flemish school associated with Josquin Des Prez, although Weerbeke’s work clearly shows Italian influence.

1. Life.

2. Works.




Weerbeke, Gaspar van

1. Life.

Born out of wedlock in the diocese of Tournai in eastern Flanders, Weerbeke was presumably educated in the Franco-Flemish area, possibly at the maîtrise of St Walburga at Oudenaarde. On stylistic grounds it seems likely that he was connected with Du Fay and his circle, especially with Johannes Regis. The Italian career of the ‘clerico tornacense’ started at the latest in winter 1471–2 when he arrived at the Sforza court at Milan. His name is first mentioned in the court registers on 29 April 1472 when Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444–76) sent him back to Flanders and Burgundy to recruit singers for his court choir. A second journey for the same purpose is documented in January 1473. The addition of 20 new members doubled the size of the Sforza choir to 40 musicians and made it one of the most important ensembles in Italy. The choir registers of 15 July 1474 show a division into 18 cantori di camera, led by Weerbeke as vice-abbate, and 22 cantori di cappella, led by the abbate, Antonio Guinati. Among the singers were Compère and Johannes Martini, who for a few years together with Weerbeke formed something akin to a musical workshop. Holding a position of trust and appreciation, Weerbeke was granted several benefices by the duke, including a pension of 40 ducats on the prepositura of S Lorenzo in Lodi (1473).

After the murder of the Duke of Milan on 26 December 1476, musicians started to leave the Sforza court in great numbers, several of them going to Ferrara. Weerbeke, however, stayed on for four years until he moved to Rome in winter 1480–81. For the next eight years he belonged to the papal choir of Sixtus IV (1471–84) and Innocent VIII (1484–92), turning down a tempting proposal to return to Milan in spring 1482. Like many other papal singers Weerbeke joined the Roman Fraternita di Santo Spirito e S Maria in Saxia (19 May 1483). In Rome he was a colleague of Josquin and also Marbriano de Orto, whom he may already have known from his time as a student before leaving for Italy.

In mid-April 1489 Weerbeke left Rome and returned to Milan, to the court of Ludovico Sforza ‘il Moro’. Seven months later, on 14 November 1489, he was received with honours in his home town Oudenaarde as ‘sanckmeester van den herthoge van melanen’. Another journey in spring 1493 brought him to Florence, possibly again in order to recruit singers for the Milanese court. During this second period at the Sforza court he was awarded benefices in the dioceses of Utrecht and Thérouanne. Up to 1495 Weerbeke’s life was dominated by a longstanding connection with the court choir of Philip the Fair, Archduke of Austria and Duke of Burgundy. From 1495 to 1498 he is also recorded as a canon at the collegiate church of St Donatian at Bruges, one of the prebends awarded to singers of the papal chapel. It may have been during this period that he made contact with the French music circle and with Crétin, who mentioned Weerbeke in his Déploration on the death of Ockeghem (d 1497). However, it seems that his connection with the Sforza court was never completely broken. Towards the end of his service with Philip, Weerbeke once more recruited singers for the Duke of Milan and presumably returned to Milan in autumn 1498. On 28 November 1499, shortly after the conquest of Milan by King Louis XII, Duke Ercole d’Este tried unsuccessfully to engage him for the court chapel at Ferrara.

Weerbeke returned to Rome, where he is documented in the registers as a papal singer from 1500 to 1509. By February 1509 his name was in second place in a list of 17 singers, but after a gap in the registers he is no longer mentioned there. In another document, however, dated 26 December 1514, he is still called ‘Cantor Capellae papalis’. At that time he entered the Fraternità del Campo Santo dei Teutonici e Fiamminghi in Rome, perhaps in order to secure himself a burial place in the cemetery next to S Pietro, but since his name is not recorded in the register of deaths of the fraternity he probably died away from Rome. The latest surviving evidence of his life suggests that he may have returned to the north: he was appointed next in succession in the dioceses of Cambrai and Tournai on 1 November 1515 by Pope Leo X, who offered him a benefice of 200 gold ducats a year in reward for his longstanding services as a ‘cantor et capellanus’ in the papal choir. Two years later, on 1 November 1517, he is mentioned as canonicus of S Maria ad Gradus in Mainz. Weerbeke was probably not the ‘Gasparo fiamengo’ who was one of the cantores secreti of Leo X in 1520–21. If Weerbeke was still alive then, he would have been about 75, surely too old to be accepted for the pope’s private choir.

Weerbeke, Gaspar van

2. Works.

Sacred music, both liturgical and non-liturgical, is clearly central in Weerbeke’s works. Masses and motets predominate. Of the eight mass Ordinaries and the two Credos which have survived, all but two masses (Missa brevis and Missa ‘Princesse d’amourettes’) were printed by Petrucci, who devoted a whole volume to Weerbeke (Misse Gaspar, 1507). For the motet cycles the central sources are the Gaffurius Codices (I-Mcap), a group of manuscripts written in Milan at the turn of the 16th century. All his other known motets were printed in collections by Petrucci in Venice between 1502 and 1508. In Motetti A, Petrucci’s first volume of motets, the compositions of Weerbeke outrank those of all the others, even Josquin, in number. Altogether about two-thirds of his extant works are found in contemporary editions, all from the first decade of the 16th century, demonstrating the high esteem in which he was held in Italy during his lifetime, but also how soon his fame faded.

Among Weerbeke’s earliest mass compositions are the Missa ‘Ave regina caelorum’ and the Missa ‘O Venus bant’. These two masses are similar in layout and may both originate from a time even before his arrival in Milan (Fiedler, 1997). In their structure, disposition of voices and general compositional technique they are reminiscent of the late masses of Du Fay, which may have served as models. But Weerbeke’s works lack the symmetry and balance of Du Fay’s, and show a stronger tendency to work out the outer voices in detail by sequence and sequential repetition. Especially in sections where the cantus firmus is not in the tenor, imitation is used frequently, mainly between discantus and tenor. Canonic duos occur in sections where the number of parts is reduced, and the mass sections are linked by head-motifs. The Missa ‘O Venus bant’, based on a Flemish song melody, is mentioned in Gaffurius’s theoretical writings; it seems to have been Weerbeke’s most popular composition (Wegner, 1940). In the Missa ‘Princesse d’amourettes’ the outer voices make greater use than usual of material from the tenor, based on a chanson that has not survived. Introductory duets replace the head-motifs, and a considerable variety of imitation and a free treatment of the material generally indicate a more modern style. The Missa ‘Et trop penser’ seems to have connections to Florence, especially to Isaac’s mass on the same chanson melody. In this composition and again in the Missa ‘Se mieulx ne vient’ Weerbeke used the technique of hybrid cantus firmus parody, in which not only the tenor but also parts of the other voices are taken quite unsystematically from a chanson. The Missa ‘N’as tu pas’ is a much later work than the masses just mentioned and may have been composed in Rome between 1504 and 1508. For this new type of mass composition Weerbeke abandoned the use of the chanson melody as a model for the tenor, taking instead motifs from the chanson setting as a whole. Unusual for him is the four-part texture throughout, but paired imitations are typical. The Missa octavi toni and the Missa brevis originate presumably from his second stay in Milan. They show a strong relationship to masses by Compère and Gaffurius and are written in a typically ‘Italian’ style in which sectional structure, alternation between homorhythmic declamation and free polyphony, frequent duos in paired imitation and extensive syllabic texting are characteristic.

The motets use a wide variety of compositional techniques. Croll (1952) classified them in five groups: motet cycles, polyphonic settings, mixed settings, homophonic settings and tenor motets. The motet cycles belong to the early period of Weerbeke’s work and are typical of the Milanese repertory. They are designed to replace parts of the Mass and are orientated towards a mixed Ambrosian and Roman liturgy, like many other works written for the Sforza court. These motets are to a large extent composed in loose and simple polyphony. Shorter sections with different numbers of voices follow one another, separated by internal cadences. Paired imitation, the use of two voices moving in parallel, and textural contrast achieved by abrupt changes from polyphony to homophony support the impression of a shortwinded layout. The form in general is clearly organized and based on the structure of the text, which tends to be delivered syllabically. Occasional emphasis of a single word and early signs of attempts to express the meaning of the text in music are typical of this ‘Italian motet style’ (Finscher, 1964). Strict homophony prevails in the motets for the Elevation of the Host. Within the motet cycles little use has been made of liturgical chant models. Among the polyphonic motets, Ave mater omnium is of particular interest; it shows both a tightly woven four-part texture with free counterpoint in each voice and changing combinations of parts with sequences and repetitions of motifs. A fine example of a mixed setting is the motet Mater digna Dei, in which specific words, composed in breves, are given emphasis partly by fermatas on each syllable. The homophonic motets are closest to the Italian laude tradition in their declamatory style. Two anonymous arrangements of motets by Weerbeke from Motetti B in Petrucci’s second book of laudi (RISM 15083) show how perfectly some of his motets fitted Italian ideals. The Franco-Flemish motet is here blended with the popular sacred music of Italy. In contrast, Weerbeke’s two five-voice tenor motets, Dulcis amica Dei digna/Da pacem Domine and Stabat mater dolorosa/Vidi speciosam, as well as the four-voice motet Ave regina caelorum and the Magnificat, are firmly in the Franco-Flemish tradition. The two five-voice tenor motets owe something to the model of Regis, and the two four-voice works seem to follow Du Fay directly. Stabat mater dolorosa/Vidi speciosam survives only in a Franco-Flemish presentation manuscript, the Chigi Codex (I-Rvat); all the other compositions in this group are transmitted in a Roman source (I-Rvat C.S.15) dating from 1495–1500.

Identification of all Weerbeke’s secular works is hindered by conflicting ascriptions and possible confusion with his contemporary Johannes Japart (from whom only secular music survives). The rondeau Sans regretz veul entretenir/Allez regretz is ascribed ‘Jaspar’ in its only source (I-Fc 2439) and could be by either composer. The four-voice songs Vray Dieu quel paine esse, Bon temps/Adieu mes amours and Que faict le cocu au bois appear together in I-Fc 2442, all ascribed ‘Gaspart’; these are close enough to Weerbeke’s four-voice motets to be accepted with a certain confidence, even though Vray Dieu has contrary ascriptions to Compère and Pipelare (firmly rejected by Atlas). The three-voice O Venus bant has ascriptions to ‘Gaspar’ and Josquin; the editors of the New Josquin Edition observe details that make it unlikely to be by Josquin and note similarities in La stangetta. But La stangetta is ascribed ‘Uuerbech’ only in the first edition of Petrucci’s Odhecaton, and in any case Petrucci otherwise marked Weerbeke’s works with ‘Gaspar’; elsewhere it is more plausibly ascribed to Obrecht or Isaac (but see Kämper, 1980).

Weerbeke’s special position in the circle of Franco-Flemish composers around Josquin lies in his extraordinary readiness to assimilate the native Italian music. He succeeded in combining the Franco-Flemish polyphonic tradition with the new Italian laude style, thus forging a new, individual style that built on the best traits from both strands of its musical heritage.

Weerbeke, Gaspar van


all for 4 voices unless otherwise stated: full list in Lindmayr (1992)

Editions:Gaspar van Weerbeke: Collected Works, ed. G. Croll, E.F. Fiedler and A. Lindmayr-Brandl, CMM, cvi (1998–) [W]Van Ockeghem tot Sweelinck, ed. A. Smijers (Amsterdam, 1949–56) [S]Gaspar van Werbeke: Messe e mottetti, ed. G. Tintori, AMMM, xi (1963) [T]Milan, Archivio della Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo, sezione musicale, librone 1 (olim 2269), Renaissance Music in Facsimile, xii a (New York, 1987) [M]Selections from Motetti A numero trentatre (Venice, 1502), ed. R. Sherr, SCMot, i (1991) [P i]Selections from Motetti libro quarto (Venice, 1505), ed. R. Sherr, SCMot, iii (1991) [P ii]

masses and mass movements

[5] Misse Gaspar (Venice, 1507) [1507]


Missa ‘Ave regina caelorum’, 1507, T

Missa brevis, D-Ju 21

Missa ‘Et trop penser’, 1507

Missa ‘N’as tu pas’, 15091

Missa octavi toni, 1507

Missa ‘O Venus bant’, 1507; ed. in EDM, 1st ser., xxxiii (1960)

Missa ‘Princesse d’amourettes’, I-Rvat C.S.35, S (Ky only); ed. in EMN, viii (1974)

Missa ‘Se mieulx ne vient’, 1507


Credo, 15051

Credo cardinale, 15051

Missa ‘Une mousse de Biscaye’ (doubtful work; see Fiedler, 1995)

motet cycles

Ave mundi domina; Ave mater gloriosa; Salve virgo virginum; Anima mea liquefacta est (2 versions: see Lindmayr, 1993); Ave regina caelorum, ave (= Ave domina angelorum); Quem terra pontus aethera; O virginum praeclara; Fit porta Christi: T, W iii, M

Quam pulchra es; Alma redemptoris mater; Salve virgo salutata; O pulcherrima mulierum; Ave regina caelorum, mater; O Maria clausus hortus; Mater patris filia mulierum; Tota pulchra es anima mea: T, W iii, M

Spiritus Domini replevit orbem; Veni Sancte Spiritus; Beata gens cuius est Dominus; Confirma hoc Deus; Loquebantur variis linguis; Factus est repente de caelo (‘Gaspar in honorem sancti spiritus’): W, P ii

other motets

Adonai sanctissime Domine Deus, P i; Anima Christi sanctifica me, 15031; Ave domina sancta Maria, P i; Ave mater omnium, P ii; Ave regina caelorum, I-Rvat C.S.15; Ave stella matutina, T, M; Ave verum corpus, 15031; Christi mater ave sanctissima, T, M; Dulcis amica Dei digna/Da pacem Domine, 5vv, 15081; Ibo mihi ad montem mirrhe, P i

Mater digna Dei, T, M; O beate Sebastiane, P ii; O pulcherrima mulierum, P i; Panis angelicus, 15031, ed. in Jeppesen (1935); Salve sancta parens, 15051; Stabat mater dolorosa/Vidi speciosam, 5vv, ed. in Vander Straeten, vi (1882); Tenebrae factae sunt, S; Verbum caro factum est, 15031, S; Vidi speciosam sicut columbam, P i; Virgo Maria, non est tibi similis, ed. A.W. Ambros, Geschichte der Musik, v (Leipzig, 1882, rev. 3/1911 by O. Kade)


Ave panis angelorum, 15083 (anon.), ed. in Jeppesen (1929–30) (adaptation of Panis angelicus)

O inextimabilis/Ave nostra salus, 15083 (anon.), ed. in Jeppesen (1935) (adaptation of Verbum caro factum est)

other sacred works

Magnificat octavi toni, I-Rvat C.S.15

Lamentationes et orationes Jeremiae, ed. in GMB


Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis gratia, Md 3 (anon.); see Lindmayr, 1992


Bon temps/Adieu mes amours, I-Fc 2442, inc.

Que fait le cocu au bois, Fc 2442, inc.

Vray Dieu quel paine esse (= Quam diu che pena), ed. in Atlas (1975)


La stangetta (= Ortus de celo flos est), 3vv, RISM 1501 (attrib. ‘Uuerbech’), ed. H. Hewitt: Harmonice musices odhecaton A (Cambridge, MA, 1942, 2/1946/R); ? by Obrecht or Isaac; see Kämper (1980)

O Venus bant, 3vv, E-Sc 5–1–43 (attrib. Gaspar), RISM 1501 (attrib. Josquin); see Fiedler (1986)

Plaine d’ennuy/Anima mea (B derived from T of Anima mea liquefacta est: see motet cycles); see Finscher (1964)

Sans regretz veul entretenir/Allez regretz, 3vv, I-Fc 2439 (attrib. ‘Jaspar’)

Weerbeke, Gaspar van


AmbrosGM, iii



Vander StraetenMPB

K. Jeppesen: ‘Die 3 Gafurius-Kodizes der Fabbrica del Duomo’, AcM, iii (1931), 14–28

K. Jeppesen with V. Brøndal: Die mehrstimmige italienische Laude um 1500 (Copenhagen and Leipzig,1935/R)

W. Wegner: Analyse der Messe ‘O Venus banth’ (diss., U. of Marburg,1940)

G. Croll: ‘Gaspar van Weerbeke: an Outline of his Life and Works’,MD, vi (1952), 67–81

G. Croll: Das Motettenwerk Gaspars van Weerbeke (diss., U. of Göttingen,1954)

T.L. Noblitt: The ‘Motetti missales’ of the Late Fifteenth Century (diss., U. of Texas, 1963)

L. Finscher: Loyset Compère (c. 1450–1518): Life and Works, MSD, xii (1964)

T.L. Noblitt: ‘The Ambrosian Motetti missales Repertory’, MD, xxii (1968), 77–103

R.S. Snow: ‘The Mass-Motet Cycle: a Mid-Fifteenth Century Experiment’, Essays in Musicology in Honor of Dragan Plamenac, ed. G. Reese and R.J. Snow (Pittsburgh, 1969/R), 301–20

C.A. Miller: ‘Early Gaffuriana: New Answers to Old Questions’, MQ, lvi (1970), 367–88

F.A. D’Accone: ‘The Performance of Sacred Music in Italy during Josquin’s Time, c. 1475–1525’, Josquin des Prez: New York 1971, 601–18

A. Atlas: The Cappella Giulia Chansonnier (Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, C.G.XIII.27) (Brooklyn, NY, 1975)

R.J. Sherr: The Papal Chapel ca. 1492–1513 and its Polyphonic Sources (diss., Princeton U., 1975)

E.F. Fiedler: ‘Heinrich Finck, Gaspar van Weerbeke und die Göttin Venus: Beitrag zur Cantus-firmus-Praxis im frühen 16. Jahrhundert’, Renaissance-Studien: Helmuth Osthoff zum 80. Geburtstag, ed. L. Finscher (Tutzing, 1979), 29–55

D. Kämper: ‘La stangetta: eine Instrumentalkomposition Gaspars van Weerbeke?’, Ars musica, musica scientia: Festschrift Heinrich Hüschen, ed. D. Altenburg (Cologne, 1980), 277–88

L. Lockwood: ‘Strategies of Music Patronage in the Fifteenth Century: the cappella of Ercole I d’Este’, Music in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Patronage, Sources and Texts, ed. I. Fenlon (Cambridge, 1981), 227–48

H.M. Brown: A Florentine Chansonnier from the Time of Lorenzo the Magnificent: Florence, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale MS Banco Rari 229, MRM, vii (1983)

L.H. Ward: ‘The “Motetti Missales” Repertory Reconsidered’, JAMS, xxxix (1986), 491–523

W.F. Prizer: ‘Music at the Court of the Sforza: the Birth and Death of a Musical Center’, MD, xliii (1989), 141–93

A. Lindmayr: ‘Die Gaspar van Weerbeke-Gesamtausgabe: Addenda et Corrigenda zum Werkverzeichnis’, De editione musices: Festschrift Gerhard Croll, ed. W. Gratzer and A. Lindmayr (Laaber, 1992), 51–64

A. Lindmayr: ‘Gaspar van Weerbeke and the Motet “Sancti Spiritus adsit nobis”’, MD, xlvi (1992), 105–31

A. Lindmayr: ‘Textdeklamation kontra Mensuralsystem in der geistlichen Musik um 1500’, IMSCR XV: Madrid 1992 [RdMc, xvi (1993)], 2641–55

E.F. Fiedler: ‘A New Mass by Gaspar van Weerbeke?’, Studien zur Musikgeschichte: eine Festschrift für Ludwig Finscher, ed. A. Laubenthal and K. Kusan-Windweh (Kassel, 1995), 72–88

P. Macey: ‘Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Musical Patronage in Milan: Compère, Weerbeke and Josquin’, EMH, xv (1996), 147–212

E.F. Fiedler: Die Messen des Gaspar van Weerbeke (ca. 1445–nach 1517) (Tutzing, 1997)

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