Sunday Playlist: Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Missa Albanus – The Cardinall’s Musick

Fayrfax patron Beaufort I’ve picked Fayrfax’s Missa Albanus for this week’s "Sunday Playlist" to serve as a further introduction to Fayrax and his work. It’s a lovely piece of music with soaring ethereal polyphony that is very restrained and spare and all the more beautiful for that, it’s a piece of music I listen to often. During his life Fayrfax was recognised as a leading composer by King Henry VIII who acknowledged his status as a  leading composer of his generation and rewarded him handsomely. A Lincolnshire man, Fayrfax was born in Deeping Gate on April 23, 1464. There’s no surviving record of his schooling or of his earliest musical training but he’s known to have had Lady Margaret Beaufort (1443–1509), Countess of Richmond and Derby and King Henry VII’s mother as a patron. Her patronage would have led to Fayrfax being established at court and by 1497 he was sufficiently well thought of both as a musician and as a courtier to be appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. He studied music in both Cambridge and Oxford receiving the degrees of MusB (1501) and MusD (1504) from Cambridge and was awarded Oxford University’s first ever doctorate in music in 1511. He’s known to have been present at such important state occasions as Henry VII’s funeral, Henry VIII’s coronation, the burial of Prince Henry, and the meeting of the kings of England and France at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in June 1520. He died in 1521.

His "Missa Albanus" Mass setting was most likely written for choir of St Alban’s Abbey, like his Marian antiphon "Maria plena virtute"  it’s based on a nine note theme found in a plainsong antiphon "Primus in Anglorum", in the rhyming Office of St Alban "O Albane Deo grate". It’s a fairly traditional English festal Mass which omits the Kyrie which would have been troped under the Sarum rite usage his setting also truncates the Credo. The four movements – Gloria, Credo, Sanctus & Benedictus, and Agnus Dei are of approximately equal length and are each introduced by a head motif which looks forward to the cantus firmus. His treatment of the cantus firmus was very original he presents his theme backwards – both inverted and in retrograde inversion, this supplements his use of contrasting freely composed three part sections and cantus firmus based sections for the full choir.  It’s sung below by The Cardinall’s Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood. Enjoy :-)


Text: Missa Albanus


Gloria in excelsis Deo
et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.

Laudamus te. Benedicimus te.

Adoramus te. Glorificamus te.

Gratias agimus tibi propter magnam gloriam tuam.

Domine Deus, rex caelestis, Deus Pater omnipotens,

Domine Fili unigenite, Jesu Christe,

Domine Deus, agnus Dei, Filius Patris,

qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis;

qui tollis peccata mundi, suscipe deprecationem nostram;

qui sedes ad dexteram Patris, miserere nobis.

Quoniam tu solus sanctus. Tu solus Dominus.

Tu solus altissimus, Jesu Christe.

Cum Sancto Spiritu, in gloria Dei Patris. Amen.


Glory to God in the highest
and on earth peace to men of good will.

We praise you. We bless you.

We adore you. We glorify you.

We give you thanks for your great glory.

Lord God, king of heaven, God the Father almighty,

Lord, only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ,

Lord God, lamb of God, Son of the Father,

you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us;

you who take away the sins of the world, receive our prayer;

you who sit at the right hand of the Father, have mercy on us.

For you only are holy. You only are Lord.

You only are most high, Jesus Christ.

With the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father. Amen.


Credo in unum Deum,
Patrem omnipotentem,

factorem caeli et terrae,

visibilium omnium, et invisibilium.

Et in unum Dominum Jesum Christum,

Filium Dei unigenitum,

et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula,

Deum de Deo, lumen de lumine,

Deum verum de Deo vero,

genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri,

per quem omnia facta sunt.

Qui propter nos homines, et propter nostram salutem

descendit de caelis.

Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria virgine,

et homo factus est.

Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato,

passus et sepultus est.

Et resurrexit tertia die, secundum scripturas.

Et ascendit in caelum:

sedet ad dexteram Patris.

Et iterum venturus est cum gloria,

iudicare vivos et mortuos:

cuius regni non erit finis.

Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum,

et vitam venturi saeculi. Amen.


I believe in one God,
Father almighty,

maker of heaven and earth,

of all visible and invisible things.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ,

the only-begotten son of God,

born of the Father before all ages,

God from God, light from light,

true God from true God,

begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father,

by whom all things were made.

Who for us men, and for our salvation,

came down from heaven.

And was incarnate by the Holy Spirit through the virgin Mary,

and was made man.

He was also crucified for us under Pontius Pilate,

he died and was buried.

And on the third day he rose again according to the scriptures.

And ascended into heaven:

he sits at the right hand of the Father.

And he will come again with glory to judge

the living and the dead:

there will be no end to his kingdom.

And I await the resurrection of the dead,

and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Sanctus and Benedictus

Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua.

Hosanna in excelsis.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine Domini.
Hosanna in excelsis.

Sanctus and Benedictus

Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.
Heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

Agnus Dei

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,
miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

miserere nobis.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi,

dona nobis pacem.

Agnus Dei

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.
Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world,have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you who take away the sins of the world,grant us peace.

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