Vicente Lusitano • Heu me Domine

Vicente Lusitano was a Portuguese musician and theorist, born in Olivença (now belonging to Spain), who lived in several Italian cities (Padua, Viterbo) during the first half of the sixteenth century and later converted himself to Protestantism. In Rome he is credited to have won a debate with Nicola Vicentino in 1551, where he exposed his view on the role of the three genera in music – diatonic, chromatic and enharmonic – over more radical ones presented by Vicentino.

The motet Heu Me Domine, for four voices looks, in a first audition, an alien work to the general characteristics of 16th-century stile antico motet writing. But one must first comprehend the theoretical situation of Lusitano in Italy in order to understand how this “audacious” piece works. This motet appears as an appendix to one of the manuscript copies of Lusitano’s treatise Introdutione facilissima et novissima de canto ferma (Rome 1553/Venice, 1561).

The following video of this work was recorded by Huelgas Ensemble, conducted by Paul Van Nevel. I had the privilege of hearing this ensemble perform this motet in Évora Cathedral on October 2010, o the International Workshop “Évora Cathedral Music School”. I have prepared an edition of Heu me Domine for the Polyphonia series (n.º 16), edited by Movimento Patrimonial pela Música Portuguesa.

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