cantus firmus

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  • noun

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a melody used as the basis for a polyphonic composition

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In the early 1920s Rudolph yon Ficker developed a theory of what he called double cantus firmus, where a cantus firmus is stated twice in the superius.(20) In his editions of some of the music in the Trent Codices for the Denkmaler der Tonkunst in Osterreich edition,(21) Ficker proposed double cantus firmi in a number of English Mass movements, though he was unable to confirm his propositions with actual chants.
Unfortunately, different texts in the cantus firmus are rarely indicated, and so the opportunity was missed to index the cantus firmi as well.
One also would like to know more about the sources and versions of the melodies used as cantus firmi, a topic of great potential value for questions of attribution and chronology.
The richly textured plein jeu movements with plainsong cantus firmi are especially fine - the varied treatment of the plainsong themes Ave maris stella and Pange lingua is remarkable - but the volume also takes in numerous free works (there are several fine Fantaisies), and an extraordinary Fantaisie des Duretez, which owes an obvious debt to Frescobaldi's Elevation Toccatas but far exceeds them - and probably everything else in the period for that matter - in harmonic audacity.
From the same partbook, he has made a judicious choice of five plates, including the title-page and music folios illustrating various treatments of cantus firmi. Plate 5 gives the resolutio of a mensuration canon with the annotation 'Tout vient a poinct [a] qui scait attendre'.
The consideration of Ockeghem and Josquin in relation to La Rue is more about resemblances in their output (e.g., use of canon, shared cantus firmi, shared texts, etc.) than influence per se.
Their contrapuntal technique was clear and austere in the Palestrinian sense, and there was never much adherence to the Franco-Flemish practice of building Masses very obviously on secular cantus firmi. In addition, several contemporary texts attest to the care taken in Portuguese churches to project liturgical texts with the utmost clarity; among these texts is that of the Basque Martin de Azpilcueta Navarro, who is reported to have said that
As musicians who understood the plainchant repertory from teaching it and from singing cantus firmi, the tenors would have been the more disciplined performers, with the best understanding of the music they sang every day.
Nine sixteenth-century motets by composers ranging from Philippe Verdelot to Claude Le Jeune follow, all settings of Savonarolan cantus firmi or the meditations on Psalms 30 and 50 that Savonarola wrote in prison while awaiting execution.
There was indeed a tradition of using cantus firmi in the final strains of dances, but Byrd is the wrong composer to pick as representative of it.
The use of various cantus firmi helps here, of course, but Penalosa furthers his cause by making his cantus firmi unusually inconspicuous in the texture.