William Mundy (±1529-1591): Evening Canticles

Mundy is one of those Tudor composers about whom we know almost nothing. His career spanned the entirety of the English reformation, the Henrician overthrow of the Catholic church, the Edwardian intensification of reform, the Marian reaction, and Elizabeth II’s re-entrenchment of the Anglican church, Mundy saw them all. His contemporaries thought very well of him and his musical abilities his music encapsulates English music of the period and deserves to be far better known. If you contrast his career with those of his great contemporaries you’ll see what I mean Taverner, Tye, Tallis and Sheppard were all older than him and their compositional technique was largely settled by time the religious turmoil started. By contrast Byrd, Morley and, going forward a bit Weelkes, Gibbons and Tomkins had no compositional experience of the status quo ante whilst amongst his near contemporaries the two who stand out Robert Parsons and Robert White both died young. Only Mundy encapsulates the entire period and I think its fair to say that at his best he crowns it. How I wish that more of his music had survived. To judge from his Cathedral music he seems to have had both the taste and the aptitude for large-scale works. You can hear what I mean below in his settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis which represent not only Mundy’s largest-scale English work but are in fact the most ambitious by any sixteenth century composer ten-parts (SAATB.SAATB) plus organ! My God. He must have set the evening canticles for a special occasion and for a special establishment – presumably the Chapel Royal. It’s beautiful music and unusual not only for its scale but also because of how he contrasted the solo and full voices, his inclusion of a separate solo group between the ‘decani’ and ‘cantoris’ sides of the choir, and last but by stretch of the imagination least his use of trebles. It’s magnificent and must have both startled and impressed its intended audience. Enjoy :-).


William Mundy (±1529-1591): Evening Canticles


Nunc Dimittis:

Performers: The Sixteen conducted by Harry Christophers.

Text Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
Nunc Dimittis
Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace

My soul doth magnify the Lord.
And my spirit rejoiceth in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden:
for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me:
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
throughout all generations.
He hath showed strength with his arm:
he hath scattered the proud in the imaginations of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat,
and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things:
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath
holpen his servant Israel.
As he promised to our fathers,
Abraham and his seed for ever.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
As it was in the beginning, and is now, and ever shall be,
world without end. Amen.

Luke 1: 46-55

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace,
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people,
to be a light to lighten the gentiles,
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

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.

Luke 2: 29-32

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