Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat (‘Regale’)

eton choir book small captioned A Lincolnshire man, Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521) rose to be the  chief composer for Henry VII is best remembered for his settings of the Mass, but this highly successful English Tudor composer who  was awarded Oxford’s very first doctor of music degree wrote in many genres. We don’t know why he gave the title "Regale" to this setting of the Magnificat although it’s reasonable to suppose that it was because he composed it for the king or perhaps for a royal foundation such as Eton College. It’s a magnificent example of one of the principal forms of English sacred music at the turn of the sixteenth century that is filled with energy and brilliantly elaborated contrapuntalism that although it looks backward in terms of its structure and rythmic complexity also anticipates future compositions in its effects and reliance on imperfect consonance. It’s a very florid piece of music in which long long phrases entwine and wind their upwards creating a wall of musical beauty that seems to hang in the air. It’s sung below by the Danish choir "Ars Nova Koret" (Copenhagen) conducted by Paul Hillier. Enjoy :-).


Text & Translation: Magnificat

LatinModern EnglishTraditional Translation
Magnificat anima mea Dominum. My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My soul doth magnify the Lord:
Et exsultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari meo. And my spirit rejoices in God, my Saviour. and my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.
Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae: For he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his handmaiden: For he hath regarded: the lowliness of his hand-maiden.
ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent omnes generationes. behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For behold, from henceforth: all generations shall call me blessed.
Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est: For he that is mighty has done wondrous things for me: For he that is mighty hath magnified me:
et sanctum nomen eius. and holy is his name. and holy is his Name.
Et misericordia eius a progenie in progenies timentibus eum. And his mercy is upon them
that fear him throughout all generations.
And his mercy is on them that fear him: throughout all generations.
Fecit potentiam in bracchio suo: He has shown the power of his arm: He hath shewed strength with his arm:
dispersit superbos mente cordis sui. he has scattered the proud in their conceit. he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles. He has put down the mighty from their seat, and has exalted the humble and meek. He hath put down the mighty from their seat: and hath exalted the humble and meek.
Esurientes implevit bonis: He has filled the hungry with good things: He hath filled the hungry with good things:
et divites dimisit inanes. and the rich he has sent empty away. and the rich he hath sent empty away.
Suscepit Israel, puerum suum, recordatus misericordiae suae. He has sustained his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy. He remembering his mercy hath holpen his servant Israel:
Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros,
Abraham, et semini eius in saecula. Luke 1: 46-55
As he promised to our forefathers,
Abraham and his sons for ever.
As he promised to our forefather Abraham and to his seed for ever.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper,
et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, and is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

One thought on “Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat (‘Regale’)

  1. Hello,

    I just found this website and wanted to thank you so much for it! I sang this piece with my St. John’s choir here in Los Angeles. Not many times or places to have the pleasure of singing this style of music. I can’t wait to explore your website.

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