Robert White (±1538-1574): Exaudiat te Dominus

This is a strange but very lovely piece of music. White was born in London sometime around 1538 he attended Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 1550s graduating with a Mus.B. degree in 1560. He married Tye’s daughter and succeeded his father-in-law as Master of the Choristers at Ely Cathedral in 1562. Sometime 1n 1567 he moved to Chester Cathedral, and then three years later he moved to the far more prestigious Westminster Abbey he died of plague in 1574. His Psalm motet Exaudiat te Dominus takes its text from Psalm 19(20) it’s a prayer that the monarch triumph over his (her) enemies and in style White’s setting is very old-fashioned, in fact it’s downright archaic. The closest pieces of music to it both in structure and in terms of the sound palette used are votive antiphons such as Vox Patris caelestis, in other words White is using a style that was itself consciously archaic. It’s a puzzle because on the basis that he was very young it’s highly unlikely that White composed Exaudiat te Dominus during Queen Mary’s reign which means he must have composed it during Elizabeth’s reign but for what occasion and for which group of singers? Whoever they were they must have been top class singers because the range required for White’s Psalm motets is extreme and the writing sometimes a bit angular. I suspect that he wrote it either for the choir at Westminster or for the Chapel Royal. Of the two I think the Chapel Royal is the more likely both because of the nature of the text and because Elizabeth is known to have enjoyed Latin religious music. He starts the Psalm with a relatively sparse structure (in fact he does this for all his Psalm motets) which progresses into full-force polyphony that builds into an irresistible musical force. You can hear this particularly at the end (Domine, salvum fac regem … ) where what seems to be a standard divided verse section rapidly develops into a full-throated seven-part structure that nevertheless retains the gimell in the inner parts. The effect is quite spectacular – particularly in the triumphant final cadence. Enjoy :-).


Text & Translation: Exaudiat te Dominus

Exaudiat te Dominus in die tribulationis:
protegat te nomen Dei Jacob.
Mittat tibi auxilium de sancto:
et de Sion tueatur te.
Memor sit omnis sacrificii tui:
et holocaustum tuum pingue fiat.
Tribuat tibi secundum cor tuum:
et omne consilium tuum confirmet.
Laetabimur in salutari tuo:
et in nomine Dei nostri magnificabimur.
Impleat Dominus omnes petitiones tuas:
nunc cognovi quoniam salvum fecit
Dominus christum suum.
May the Lord hear you on the day of judgement:
may the name of the God of Jacob protect you.
May he send to you help from his holy place:
and may he watch over you from Sion.
May he be mindful of all your sacrifices:
and may your burnt offerings be made fruitful.
May he grant to you after your own heart:
and may he confirm all your opinions.
We shall rejoice in your salvation:
and we shall rejoice in the name of our God.
May the Lord fulfil all your petitions:
now I have recognized that the Lord has saved
his anointed.
Exaudiat illum de caelo sancto suo:
in potentatibus salus dexterae eius.
Hi in curribus, et hi in equis:
nos autem in nomine Domini Dei nostri invocabimus.
May he hear you from his holy heaven:
salvation by the power of his right hand.
Some on chariots, and others on horses:
but we on the name of our Lord God shall call.
Ipsi obligati sunt, et ceciderunt:
nos autem surreximus, et erecti sumus.
Domine, salvum fac regem:
et exaudi nos in die qua invocaverimus te.
They are found guilty, and fall:
but we have arisen, and stand upright.
Lord, save the king:
and hear us on the day when we call on on you.

Psalm 19 (20)

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