Each is based on a different Gregorian chant tune which remains prominent throughout; this process is similar to that employed in the Requiem, lending the pieces a flexible, speech-like rhythm. The incipit the first few notes of the original melody is given in neumatic chant notation at the beginning of each motet. Performed as a set, the Four Motets have a classic arch shape, reaching a climax in the third motet "Tu es Petrus" , then, in "Tantum ergo," returning to the mood of serene contemplation first established in "Ubi caritas. The opening melody serves as a kind of refrain, coming back twice.
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Luca della Robbia : fragment from a choir. The motet was preserved in the transition from medieval to Renaissance music , but the character of the composition was entirely changed. While it grew out of the medieval isorhythmic motet, the Renaissance composers of the motet generally abandoned the use of a repeated figure as a cantus firmus. The cascading, passing chords created by the interplay between multiple voices, and the absence of a strong or obvious beat, are the features that distinguish medieval and renaissance motet styles.
Instead, the Renaissance motet is a polyphonic musical setting, sometimes in imitative counterpoint, for chorus, of a Latin text, usually sacred, not specifically connected to the liturgy of a given day, and therefore suitable for use in any service.
The texts of antiphons were frequently used as motet texts. This is the sort of composition that is most familiarly designated by the term "motet", and the Renaissance period marked the flowering of the form. In essence, these motets were sacred madrigals. The language of the text was the decisive feature: if it is Latin , it is a motet; if the vernacular, a madrigal.
Like their madrigal cousins, Renaissance motets developed in episodic format, with separate phrases of the source text being given independent melodic treatment and contrapuntal development; contrapuntal passages often alternate with monody. Secular non-religious motets continued to be written, however. These motets typically set a Latin text in praise of a monarch, commemorating some public triumph, or even praising music itself. Nevertheless, the themes of courtly love often found in the medieval secular motet were banished from the Renaissance motet.
Many secular motets are known as "ceremonial motets". Adrian Willaert , Ludwig Senfl , and Cipriano de Rore were among the most prominent composers of ceremonial motets during the first half of the 16th century.
Important composers of Renaissance motets include:.
4 Motets, Op.9 (Dupré, Marcel)