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Motive, Structure and Meaning in Willaert’s Motet Videns Dominus


This study of Adrian Willaert’s motet, Videns Dominus flentes sorores Lazari, demonstrates how the construction and distribution of motives indicate a particular reading of the text, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. While this reading has important elements in common with artistic renderings of the story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus, it also demonstrates the ability of music to express a kind of meaning unavailable to artists. Willaert created a symmetrical structure with the command of Jesus to Lazarus placed in the exact middle of the motet, with events on either side ordered concentrically to represent Lazarus’s return to life. Key events in Willaert’s motet recur in Jacobus Vaet’s Videns Dominus (1562), and Hieronymus Praetorius’s double-choir motet, Videns Dominus flentes sorores Lazari (1599).

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