Notwithstanding the reputation of Josquin’s Ave Maria…virgo serena as a touchstone of late–fifteenth-century musical style, little is known about the context in which the piece emerged. Just over a decade ago, Joshua Rifkin placed the motet in Milan ca. 1484; more recently, Theodor Dumitrescu has uncovered stylistic affinities with Johannes Regis’s Ave Maria that reopen the debate about the provenance of Josquin's setting. Stipulating that the issues of provenance and dating are for the moment unsolvable, I argue that the most promising way forward is to contextualize this work to the fullest extent possible. Using the twin lenses of genre and musical style, I investigate the motet’s apparently innovative procedures (e.g., paired duos, periodic entries, and block chords) in order to refine our understanding of how Josquin’s setting relates to that of Regis and to the Milanese motet cycles (motetti missales). I also uncover connections between Josquin’s motet and the music of earlier generations, above all the cantilena and the forme fixe chanson, that offer new insights into the development of musical style in the fifteenth century. The essay concludes by positioning the types of analyses explored here within a growing body of research that enables a revitalized approach to longstanding questions about compositional development and musical style.

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