Et unam sanctam

This final section of the Credo is built over the verse of the responsory O sanctissime presul, a text whose communal prayer to St. Donatian for intercession Obrecht interlaces into the Creed’s final communal declaration of belief in salvation. The singers thus stand in for the community, bringing the Fore-Mass to a conclusion by expressing hope for resurrection at the Last Judgment (for both De Moor and themselves) and entreating Donatian to intervene on their behalf.

Text-music connections are especially deft in this segment of the Creed. At the outset the unity of the Church is suggested by the unison intersection of soprano and alto on the word “unam,” In an almost madrigalian gesture. Obrecht conveys the idea of awaiting the final resurrection of the dead on Judgment Day at the words “resurrectionem mortuorum” by collapsing the range to an open low octave on G. followed by a rapid scalar ascent in the soprano voice. And the leisurely plagal cadence that closes the Credo, which lacks the expected strong cadential expansion to the final G sonority, seems designed to capture the idea of a soul waiting and hoping for salvation at the Last Judgement.

Obrecht’s “Et unam sanctam” is sung by Cappella Pratensis from the original notation as preserved in the choirbook Jena, Universitatsbibliothek, Ms 32.

For more information, see:
Crocker, Richard L., and David Hiley. 2001 “Credo.” Grove Music Online. 22 Jul. 2018.
Strohm, Reinhard. Music in Late Medieval Bruges. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1985. See in particular pp. 146-48.
Wegman, Rob C. Born for the Muses: The Life and Masses of Jacob Obrecht. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994. See in particular pp. 169-74.