Johannes Ciconia Composer
Venecie mundi splendor; Michael qui stena domus (a4)
Musicology:Johannes Ciconia may have been part patriot, but a larger part pragmatist. While staying with the Visconti court of Milan and Pavia to further his nascent Italian musical career, he dutifully composed music that incorporated elements of courtly praise for his provisional patrons. While traveling with his next employer Cardinal Phillippe d'Alençon to the Holy See of Rome, he wrote music for Roman celebrations. During the first decade of the fifteenth century, he was an adopted Paduan and given benefice income at Padua's Cathedral and churches. This led to a number of musical pieces that celebrate the people and prestige of the Paduan city-state: Albane misse celitus, Doctorem principem, and O Padua sidus praeclarum. Yet the time of Ciconia's Paduan service also concided with the end of that state's independent life, as it was formally subsumed into the state of Venice. Ciconia the patriot apparently composed O Padua sidus praeclarum to tout the cultural and political virtues of his native Padua on the unfortunate occasion of its annexation into the growing empire of Venice at the end of the year 1405. But at the same time, probably for the same occasion, the composer wrote another extended motet of similar proportions and gravity. Venecie mundi splendor extols (in a very pragmatic move for the composer) the virtues of Padua's new overlords.
Venecie mundi splendor; Michael qui stena domus (a4)Year: 1406
Pr. Instrument: Chorus/Choir
The Latin verses for the two voices (out of three) for which Ciconia provides text slathers on the praise for the state of Venice. Venice is a "Marvel of the world" and "Pride of Italy"; she is "Mother of the sea," an "Honorable maiden." She conquers the forces of the mighty (including, presumably, Padua). The second texted voice sings the praises of Michael Stena, Doge of Venice. It salutes the one who rules as Pheobus, asking God to watch over him and asking that he govern (Padua) with justice and mercy. The musical setting involves two more active upper voices, which carry the two texts and the bulk of the melodic interest. The lower voice (with one notable exception) supports this pair with slower harmonic support. The exception comes just before the final phrase of text, when the lowest voice briefly introduces the upper voice; this final phrase happens to be a conceit of the composer, and its text makes the listeners know that "To you [Venice] Johannes Ciconia sings with a pious voice."
© Timothy Dickey, Rovi