Sunday Musical Offering: Jean Mouton’s Nesciens Mater

Jean Mouton (1459 – 1522) was a French priest, canon and, like Vivaldi (also ordained), a prolific composer, well ahead of his time in his masterful use of polyphony, chords and harmony. From what survives of his work (more than most, due to his contemporary popularity with popes, kings, queens, nobles and the people), we are blessed to have 100 motets, 15 Masses, 20 chansons – and, as he was especially devoted to the Virgin Mary, no less than 9 Magnificats.

Here, as a window into the transcendent beauty of his work, and a prelude to Christmas on this Gaudete Sunday (rejoice! again, I say, rejoice!), here is his Nesciens Mater, first published in 1521, just before the turmoil of the ‘Reformation’ got going, as sung just recently by Voces8.

The text is as follows:

Nesciens mater, virgo virum peperit sine dolore, salvatorem saeculorum. Ipsum regem angelorum, sola virgo lactabat, ubere de caelo pleno. 

Which may be translated as:

Knowing no man, the Virgin mother bore, without pain, the Saviour of the world. Him, the king of angels, only the Virgin suckled, breasts filled by heaven.