Eya MaterDiscantus
Chant grégorien - Polyphonies des XIe-XIIe siècles

Opus 111 OPS 30-143


1. Alleluia. Ave Maria, gratia plena  (organum)  [2:45]   tutti · 6 5

2. Antienne et psaume. Beata mater  [2:34]   tutti

3. (11:17)
Lecture tropée. Lectio libri Sapientia  [1:35]   8
Répons. Dixit angelus ad Mariam  [1:29]   1 2 4 · 4
Lecture tropée. Ego mater pulchrae dilectionis  [2:22]   8
Répons. Ecce concipies et paries filium  [1:38]   1 2 4 · 1
Lecture tropée. Spiritus enim meus  [2:35]   8
Répons. Dabit illi Dominus  [1:37]   1 2 4 · 2

4. (7:29)
Lecture tropée. O dos novum Domini  [0:54]   2
Jube, domne. Salvator noster  [3:30]   1 4
Répons. Quomodo fiet istud  [3:05]   2 8 · 4

5. Communion. Vox in Rama audita est  [4:21]   tutti · 2

6. Graduel. Anima nostra sicut passer  [3:25]   3 5 7 · 6

7. Benedicamus Domino  (organum)  [2:12]   tutti

8. Alleluia. Laudate pueri  [2:47]   7

9. Lamentation  (3:58)
RACHEL. O dulces filii  [2:39]   5
ANGELUS. Noli Rachel flere  [1:19]   7

10. Conduit. Res iocosa quod hec rosa  [2:44]   2 5

11. Introït. Ex ore infantium  [3:15]   8

12. Trait. Gaude Maria virgo  (organum)  [3:27]   1 4 · 6 8

13. Introït tropée  (11:54)

Trope. Quem creditis natum in orbem  [1:57]   6
Introït. De ventre matris meae  [1:21]   tutti
Trope. Hodie puer magnus surrexit  [2:56]   8 · 6
Trope. Audite insulae et arrendite populi  [3:35]   4 · 2
Trope. Ipse preibit ante Dominum  [2:05]   5

14. Alleluia. Inter natos mulierum (organum)  [8:20]   6 5 · 3 7

Brigitte Lesne

1  Emmanuelle Gal
2  Anne Guidet
3  Claire Jéquier
4  Lucie Jolivet
5  Brigitte Le Baron
6  Brigitte Lesne
7  Catherine Schroeder
8  Catherine Sergent

L'ensemble Discantus a créé ce programme dans le cadre d'une résidence à l'Abbaye de Royaumont en juillet 1995.


Graduel de Gaillac, XIe siècle
Tropaires d'Apt, d'Auch et de Moissac, XI siècle
Manuscrits polyphoniques de Winchester, XIe siècle
Manuscrits polyphoniques limousins, XIIe siècle
Antiphonaire de Worcester, Cathédrale, F 160, XIIIe siècle (Fac-similé : Paléographie Musicale, Solesmes, t.XII)
Transcriptions : Marie-Noël Colette et Brigitte Lesne

Manuscrit de l'Ecole Notre-Dame de Paris, XIIIe siècle (Fac-similé: L. Dittmer, Firenze, Biblioteca mediceo-Laurenziana, Pluteo, 29, I) : Alleluia Inter natos
Transcription : Philippe Gonneaud

Lecture O dos novum [...] Salvator noster, d'après le manuscrit Graz, Universitätsbibliothek, III, 29, Bénédictins de Saint-Lambrecht, XlVe siècle (transcription : Th. Göllner, Die mehrstimmigen liturgischen Lesungen, 1969, I, 109-113)

L'ensemble Discantus a créé ce programme dans le cadre d'une résidence à l'Abbaye de Royaumont en juillet 1995.

Executive producer : Yolanta Skura
Recording producer, engineer, editing : Laurence Heym
Recording : Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud, France, September 1995
Cover : Barthélémy l'Anglais, Livre des Propriétés des Choses,
detail from the chapter entitled 'De la nourrice' (D.R.)
Cover design : Marguerite Tager. Composition du livret /Typesetting : Peter Vogelpoel
Ⓟ1995 Original recording made by Opus 111, Paris ©1995 Opus 111, Paris
Ref. OPS 30-143

IT WAS GOD HIMSELF who conveyed the message to Eve, mother of the living, she who had been hounded out of Paradise: 'Thou shalt crush the serpent, thou shalt give birth in pain and suffering.' These are indeed the roles that were assigned to woman in the Old Testament and
which lent her their voice. The woman sang when, through her courage, the presence of God was made manifest (Judith, Deborah) or when, still celebrating celestial power, she awaited a birth miraculously announced (Sarah, the wife of Abraham and Anna, mother of Samuel). This connivance between woman and song reached its zenith in the Song of Songs. But medieval Christianity transformed this spouse into its Church, thus protecting her from feminine enchantment. Christian worship considered as victorious and therefore worthy of blessing only such figures as virgins, widows, female martyrs and one or two mothers of saints.

The Virgin Mother

Medieval liturgical melodies were composed, almost without exception, by clerics. Whenever the melodies sang of woman, it was almost always the Virgin Mary, the new Eve, mother of the new Adam. She was the admirable mother, the comforter, the mediator between God and humankind; she was entirely submissive and therefore the perfect embodiment of the medieval concept of woman.

The Virgin became the mother of the God-child. Her virginity was expressed in the question that Mary put to the angel who announced her forthcoming and miraculous motherhood: Quomodo? 'How shall this be since I know not a man?' This sentence features amongst the series of replies inserted on this occasion into the readings: Dixit angelus ad Mariam. The remark must have intrigued a number of minds, since the Tractus, Ave Maria, composed in the south of France, quite simply did away with it. Can it be that medieval exegesis, somewhat disturbed by 'this strange thing', Res iocosa, lessened the import of the message of the New Testament?


Between the Annunciation and the Nativity, the stained-glass windows of cathedrals celebrated the visit of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth. The two women are with child and miraculously so; Elizabeth is a 'woman in old age' (de senili marre, Trope Quem creditis), Mary was 'overshadowed' by the Holy Spirit.

The child of the promise, the one that Elizabeth is expecting, reacts to Mary's visit ('the babe leapt in her womb'). Saint John the Baptist, recognized as a prophet once he had become an adult, was conceived before Jesus, whose arrival he prepared; he later withdrew from the scene after he had baptised Jesus in the waters of the river Jordan. Their destinies were brought together in medieval worship by the choice of the winter solstice to celebrate Christmas and the summer solstice to celebrate the birth of John the Baptist. Later to become a great annunciator, John was first of all that silent and prophetic leaping in his mother's womb. On learning of his birth, his father, Zachariah, was thunderstruck and lost the power of speech. Here, it is not the mother who is the subject of the song, nor indeed is it the child. It is the very essence of maternity that is celebrated in the liturgy of the 'Precursor': De ventre matis meae, Inter natos mulierum.


Vox in Rama: 'A voice is heard in Ramah, it is Rachel weeping for her children, because they are no more' (Jeremiah 31, 15). Rachel, beloved of Jacob and mother of Joseph and Benjamin, through her tears was to be associated in the liturgy with the memory of the innocents slaughtered as a result of Herod's jealousy. Sarah laughed on learning of her forthcoming motherhood, Rachel wept over the loss of her children. It is thus every aspect of womanhood that is represented. A mother overwhelmed with grief introduces a new character and a new voice into medieval music, one which expresses its sorrow in the stage-like setting of a liturgical drama: O dulces filii.

With Mary, mother of the Word, Elizabeth, mother of the word which preceded it and Rachel, mother of those unknown and silent innocents, there was little scope elsewhere for the liturgy to celebrate womanhood.


These evocations of motherhood are expressed here in the musical genres which outlined the medieval liturgical landscape. Over the centuries, and varying according to the region, it underwent a great many alterations; any attempt, therefore, to provide a comprehensive picture of it can be no more than a generalisation. From the outset, religious services were made up of biblical texts, readings and psalms. The Lectio libri Sapientiae, taken from the Book of Isaiah, was filled out with a poetic commentary designed to give contemporary relevance to the original text.

The music composed for the mass demands various types of performance, with the presence of one or more soloists and a schola. Amongst the earliest melodies (fifth and sixth centuries), there are to be found the Tracts, Graduals and the Alleluias which came after the readings. The present programme features Ex ore infantium as the Introit; usually, it is sung in the shape of a refrain in conjunction with a psalm, but on this occasion, a direct lead into a psalmodic interpretation seemed better to suit the style of the composition. The Introit De ventre matris meae is embellished with a trope directing the import of the text, which is taken from the Book of Isaiah, upon the celebration of St John the Baptist. Between the ninth and the twelfth centuries, such inserts of poetry and music helped to heighten the solemnity of one of the most important parts of a religious service throughout the western Church, that of the entry of the clergy into the place of worship.

On the present recording, polyphonic music from various epochs – some of it improvised – depicts the musical atmosphere of feast days in the most important medieval cities:

— A psalmody, accompanying the Antiphony Beata mater, in parallel fourths or fifths and improvised in the style described in a twelfth-century treatise.
— Authentic polyphonic accompaniments dating back to the dawn of the eleventh century:

• Organa which have been reconstructed from the neumatic notation of the Winchester manuscripts in England: Alleluia Ave Maria, Tract Gaude Maria;
Organum 'suspended' over the principal voice (Vox in Rama), in imitation of the improvisations practised in northern Italy according to evidence supplied by Guy d'Arezzo (in his treatise Micrologus).

— An exit chant, Benedicamus Domino and a Conduit, Res iocosa, composed in the Limousin during the course of the twelfth century.
— The organum Inter natos, for the feast of St John the Baptist, sung in the cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris at the time of the building of the new cathedral (end of the twelfth century).

These melodies for two voices, polymelodies, are still close to ancient liturgical chant, with the exception of Res iocosa which smacks of a new style (twelfth century) favoured by festivities linked with children during the Christmas and New Year periods, the festivals of the 'Innocents'. Finally, it was in the autumn of the Middle Ages that the text O dos novum...Salvator foster was provided with a musical accompaniment intended to emphasize the solemnity of the Nativity. The unusual fact of setting to music a reading which had been featured since the end of the eleventh century modifies profoundly the traditional appearance of the lectio: originally a straightforward cantillation, it was now endowed with a musical decoration in the response which prolonged it. Nevertheless, it bears witness to the perpetual tension that existed in medieval practices between the artistic appetites of musicians and the desire to communicate the message of the sacred texts without interfering with their intelligibility.

Translation: John Sidgwick