Josquin: Mente tota

September 8, 2011

Today is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin. To celebrate, I am posting a short video which I made a few weeks ago. It marries a clutch of my favourite images of the Virgin with a motet by Josquin Desprez.

Mente tota is one of the motets in Josquin’s motet cycle Vultum tuum deprecabunter, first published in 1505. The text is a plea to the Virgin which ends with a short litany (see below). Josquin’s setting is remarkable: it is constructed in three parts, the first lavishly polyphonic, the second somewhat simpler and more homophonic, and the last — the litany — a simple and beautiful antiphonal exchange, very reminescent of the call-and-response of a prayed litany. In the early stages, when the music spills like water, the images are only loosely tied to the music, but as the piece proceeds and the music becomes simpler and more obviously structured, the images and music become synchronized. I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.

The piece is sung in this clip by Cinquecento, and is taken from their recording of (mostly) music of Adrian Willaert. I have heard the piece before, but never sung so admirably as here.


Mente tota tibi supplicamus,
ut sicut Filio tuo Domino nostro
Jesu Christo aliquando displicuimus,
modo viceversa immutatis moribus
per te usque in finem ei complaceamus.
Preces nostras, virgo mirabilis,
ideo ne despicias quia ore indigno
nomen sanctum tuum invocare praesumimus.

Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis.
Sancta Dei genetrix, ora pro nobis.
Sancta virgo virginum, intercede pro nobis.


With our whole mind we beg you,
that, as your Son our Lord
Jesus Christ we have sometimes displeased,
in the opposite manner and with unchanging habits
may we through you be pleasing to him for ever.
Accordingly, wondrous virgin,
do not despise our prayers because with unworthy mouth
we presume to call upon your holy name.

Holy Mary, pray for us.
Holy mother of God, pray for us.
Holy virgin of virgins, intercede for us.

6 Responses to “Josquin: Mente tota”

  1. Janet Says:

    Thank you.

    What is that picture of the Coronation where Jesus and Mary are looking at one another?


  2. cburrell Says:

    Janet, the one at 2:20 is a detail of one of Beato Angelico’s Coronations, from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

    But I expect you are asking about the one at 2:40. I don’t know anything about it! At some point I came across it online and saved it, but subsequent efforts to find it again have not been successful.

  3. Janet Says:

    Could you send it to me? You could attach it to a Facebook message.


  4. cburrell Says:

    I will send it tonight.

  5. Douglas Says:

    Alexander Street Press is currently offering Josquin des Prez’s Missa de Beata Virgine for free.

  6. cburrell Says:

    I have that recording of the Mass already in my collection. It’s a good one.

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