|Motetti Spirituali Volume III: motets for 8 voices|
|Peccò Signor||SATB SATB||or||SMsAB SMsAB|
|Hodie gloriosus Pater Augustinus||SATB SATB||or||MsASA SMsAT|
|Dulce nomen Iesu Christi||SATB SATB||or||SASB SASB|
|Ascendo ad Patrem meum||SATB SATB||or||SASA SASA|
|Cantate Domino canticum novum||SATB SATB||or||SSAB SSAB|
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listen to Dulce nomen Iesu Christi
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Sulpitia Lodovica Cesis, a nun at the Augustinian convent of S. Geminiano in Modena, was the author of an important collection of Motetti spirituali for 2–12 voices, preserved in the Biblioteca Estense in Modena. Born on 15 May 1577, she was daughter of the count Annibale Cesis and his wife Barbara. The date of her death is unknown, but certainly followed the publication of her motets in 1619, when she was 42.
Cesis’ collection of Motetti spirituali is an important body of music both for the generally high quality of the works it contains and for the information it provides regarding performance practice in Italian convents in the early 17th century. Its eight partbooks contain 23 motets for 2-12 voices. The pieces suit a variety of occasions including Easter and Christmas, others are dedicated to various saints, Mary, Christ or the father confessors. Four works are generic motets on biblical texts, loosely based on psalms or taken from the Gospel according to St. John.
Despite the date of publication, Cesis’ motets have more in common with the late 16th century polychoral compositions of Andrea Gabrieli than they do with the concertato style of her contemporaries. Indeed the prevalence of large ensembles over the more modern two and three-voice concerti ecclesiatici in fashion around 1620, as well as the absence of a partbook for the basso continuo (or even an organ partitura), point either to conservatism within the convent walls or to the possibility that the works were composed earlier. This is not an unlikely proposition in view of the fact that Cesis was 42 years old at the time of publication; most nun composers saw their first-and often only-collection published at a younger age.
Despite the lack of a basso continuo part, however, one should not assume that these works were performed without organ. It was not unusual in the late 16th century to utilize organs in the performance of polyphonic and polychoral motets. Most importantly, we must remember that these motets were written to be performed by cloistered nuns, without access to male voices to sing the lower parts, and therefore an organ would be useful, or even essential to perform the tenor and bass voices.
In addition to the organ, two of the motets specifically call for other instruments, a particularly interesting fact in light of the restrictions within the convents for their use, and indeed the instruments specified are not those readily associated with an ensemble of cloistered nuns: cornett, trombone, violone and arciviolone. Yet again, the choice of instrumentation is easily explained in a musical context obviously characterized by an absence of male voices.
This third volume of Cesis’ motets contains 5 motets for 8 voices.