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About this Piece

One of countless Renaissance composers who have fallen into relative musical obscurity over the last few centuries, Francesco Corteccia was, during his own lifetime, one of the best known of the early madrigalists, as well as the most prominent musician in Florence during the reign of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. So popular were his early madrigals that three volumes were published in the 1540s. His sacred music, which includes a set of Lamentations, would not see publication until the last years of his life, due in no small part to the composer’s own copious revisions and reworkings, as well as liturgical modifications mandated by the Council of Trent.

Corteccia’s Surge, illuminare Jerusalem takes its text from the book of Isaiah, and appears in his book of motets for five voices, Cantorum liber primus, published at the very end of his life in 1571. The opening interval of the rising (!) fifth is imitated in every voice, a polyphonic gesture which perfectly imitates the command, “Arise, shine…” Although most of the motet is composed of strictly imitated passages at precise canonic intervals, Corteccia includes occasional homophonic passages, notably in the form of duets and trios on the text “et gloria Domini” (“and the glory of the Lord”). The final section of the motet is comprised of a repeated overlapping motif, seem- ingly tumbling over itself, giving the effect of the excited susurration of a crowd spreading the good news.

Surge, illuminare, Jerusalem,
quia venit lumen tuum,
et gloria Domini super te orta est.

Arise, shine O Jerusalem;
for thy light is come,
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.