“Tota vita christiani boni, sanctum desiderium est.” “The whole life of a good Christian, is sacred desire.” (Saint Augustine, In Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos tractatus decem 4.6)
These words of Church Father Augustine of Hippo, a saint in the Catholic and Anglican traditions and a theological father for many Protestants, comprehend the devotion that underlies many religious musical compositions.
Even though Augustine was not undividedly in favour of music for religious purposes (in his Confessions, he warns against music as mere gratification of the senses instead of as a means to convey divine truth), he himself certainly enjoyed music, especially hymns, because he felt that the combination with text increased his devotion. Early baroque composers, then, were very much in favour of combining new musical styles with sacred texts in order to arouse the affects of their audience. The aim of their aesthetic was to convey these idealised emotional states (joy, sadness,…) on the listeners. For that, they used rational, objective principles comparable to those of rhetorics, the basic elements of the ancient art of oratory that has the same objective.
The innovative Italian styles of opera and oratorio, based on these rhetorical concepts, spread quickly throughout Europe, and especially in the Germanic regions the models were diligently developed. The program of Sanctum Desiderium is a careful selection of seventeenth-century German compositions that feature the literal expression of sacred desire as well as its translation into musical imagery.
This is the start of a six-voice motet composed by Nicolas Gombert (1495 – 1560) as an epitaph on the death of Josquin Desprez. Gombert’s invocation of the divine muses, the sources of artistic inspiration in poetry and music of antiquity, recalls the intent of early baroque composers to return to the ideals of ancient theatre. Composers started paying particular attention to audibility and expressivity of the word. A return to their music in the twenty-first century means, following the muses, to combine reflexion and imagination in all musical activity.
The combination of these qualities is the aim of the young early music soloist ensemble, Musae Jovis, in their explorations of known and unknown repertoire of the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Musae Jovis was brought together in 2015 by and around tenor Pieter De Moor and comprises 2 violins, viola da gamba, theorbo and organ or harpsichord. Having met between the highly recognised conservatoires of Belgium (Brussels & Leuven), the diverse talents and versatility of the members promise an ever interesting energy.