Missa Virgo Parens Christi

Jacobus Barbireau

edited:Edward Wickham

  Cat. 0051    
  Genre: Mass  
  Liturgical Use: Mass (Marian)  
  Vocal Disposition: SATTB  
  Price: £3.25  

Until recently, confusion over the identity of Barbireau has obscured the details of his life. It is now clear that the Barbireau who spent most of his short career at the Church of Our Lady, Antwerp, and who died in 1492 is not the same as the composer Barbingant, who appears to have been of an earlier generation. To Barbireau can be ascribed only a handful of works, including a motet Osculetur me and this sumptuous five-part mass, based on the Marian chant Virgo parens Christi. The five part texture of this work is reminiscent of the motets of Johannes Regis and other five part works of the 1480s and ‘90s, contrasting duets with full sections in which the tenor cantus firmus is stated in long notes. The mass is particularly unusual for its moments of divisi, though some of these may represent later additions.


Missa Virgo parens Christi survives in three near-contemporary sources:

  • Vienna, Nationalbibliothek MS 1783 (f 1’-17) V
  • Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, MS Chigi CVIII 234 (f 143’-153) C
  • Rome, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Capella Sistina 160 (f 2’-13) R

V was compiled at the Burgundian court c. 1500, and was probably intended as a wedding gift for Manuel of Portugal and Marie of Spain. It is the main source for this edition.

C has been dated to the years 1495-1508, and was compiled for the Burgundian nobleman Philippe Bouton. C’s transmission lacks the Agnus Dei.

R also derives from the Burgundian court, a few years later than V. It was given as a present to Pope Leo X. The mass is anonymous in this source.

Editorial Procedures and Conventions 

Clefs and signatures: The original clefs and signatures are indicated in the prefatory staves.
Note values and barring:
Note values have been halved in tempus perfectum (the 3/2 sections) and quartered in tempus imperfectum (the cut C sections): it is the editor’s experience that this method gives the most helpful representation of the approximate tempo relationship between these sections, with a slight increase of pulse in the tempus imperfectum sections.
Transposition: The pitch has been lowered by a tone
Voice designations and ranges:
The editorís voice designations are given after the prefatory staves. The ranges of each part are indicated at the pitch of the modern edition.
Accidentals given in the source are shown within the stave.

Accidentals which are implied by the rules of musica ficta are provided editorially above the notes.
Text and Underlay: Text underlay given explicitly in the source is shown in a normal typeface. Editorial interpolations are shown in an italic sans serif font.
Varints: A list of variants between the three sources is provided in the edition

Notes on Performance

The downward transposition makes this work performable bt modern full choirs. In the Credo Basses are required to sing low Fs; in the Agnus Dei the tenors are required to sing top As.

The Tridentine version of the chant can be found in the Liber Usualis. The version of the chant known to Barbireau would presumably have been that found in the Use local to Antwerp. Choirs wishing to perform the chant as a prelude to the mass could research such a version. Meanwhile, the Tridentive version, altered according to the cantus firmus of the mass, is provided here:

Click here to see a low resolution version of the first page: Click here to hear extratcs from each movement: