Cor Flammae: Dominique Phinot - Quanti mercenarii

Conducted by Stephen Smith - FALLEN ANGELS: Sacred + Profane Works by queer composers
St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church, Vancouver, July 17 2015

Dominiqe Phinot was a Franco-Flemish composer of the late Renaissance whose work anticipated the development of the Venetian polychoral style. Beyond working in Italy and southern France and his impressive body of work and professional acclaim he achieved, we know little about Phinot’s life other that he was executed for “homosexual practices” in Lyon in 1556. Despite being cut short in his prime, Phinot’s musical legacy cannot be denied, as according to Renaissance writer Pietro Cerone, “had there been no Phinot, ... Palestrina’s music would not have been possible.”

The motet Quanti mercenarii is a setting of text from the Bible’s story of the Prodigal Son. A story of shame and unearned forgiveness, Quanti mercenarii has historically has been set as a motet much more often that liturgically necessary for worship. Phinot’s setting contains a secret modulation that, when interpreted using Renaissance chromatic technique, underscores the description of the Prodigal Son’s starvation, moving the tonality from one key to another by cycling through a circle of fifths.

Quanti mercenarii in domo Patris mei abundantpanibus,
ego autem hic fame pereo,
Surgam, et ibo ad Patrem meum et dicam ei:
fac me sicut unum ex mercenariis tuis.

How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare,
and here I am starving to death!
I will arise and go to my father and say to him:
‘Make me like one of your hired men.’
(After Luke 15:17-19)"

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