In 1350, Pope Clement VI determined that each of the four principal Marian Antiphons would be assigned, each to its own season. Two are very familiar to us, the Regina Caeli and the Salve Regina. Indeed, you would sometimes think that Pope Clement had assigned the Salve Regina to every Latin Mass in saecula saeculorum, in season and out of season.
However, the other two antiphons, both beautiful and beautifully short, are lost treasures for the great majority of Catholics and even the great majority of Catholics attached to the Gregorian Rite. The Alma Redemptoris Mater is assigned to Advent and Christmastide. The Ave Regina Caelorum is assigned to the time from after Purification until Holy Thursday. It is, in effect, the Marian Antiphon of Lent.
In this clip, the Antiphon is performed by Tien-Ming Pan, organist of St. Paul's Catholic Church, Taipei, upon the organ of Aletheia University, Taiwan. Once again, even this simple, short prayer to Our Lady displays the universality, both in time and space, of the Catholic Church and of devotion to the Mother of God. Henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed (Luke i:48).
Despite its relative hiddenness today, it is not difficult to find examples of settings of the Ave Regina Caelorum. Among the compositions by less well-known composers is that in the second clip by Jachet of Mantua. Jachet's religious works, almost the whole of his oeuvre, may be taken as a fair representation of the mind of the Fathers of the Council of Trent upon polyphonic Church music, especially the President of the Council, Ercole, Cardinal Gonzaga, scion of the great Ducal House of Manutua, Bishop of Mantua and Jachet's principal patron.
In the clip above is the setting by Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690), one of the maestri di capella of St. Mark's in Venice. His Ave Regina Caelorum, in the clip above, clearly displays the eastern idiom that was charasteristic of Venetian Church Music. That eastern or Byzantine influence is most obviously demonstrated in In Ecclesiis by Giovanni Gabrieli (1554-1612). The Gabrielis, uncle and nephew, are the most notable exponants of the Venetian School.
Johann Kasper Krell (1627-1693) was an influential, although now hardly known, Catholic organist and Baroque composer who served both the House of Habsburg (in Vienna and Brussels) and the House of Wittlesbach (in Munich). His Ave Regina Caelorum has the richness of the Baroque but with a sobriety suited to its devotional theme.
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