John Taverner (±1490–1545): Dum transisset Sabbatum II

This is the second of two settings of the Easter respond Dum transisset Sabbatum (When the Sabbath was over) known to have been composed by Taverner and takes its text from Mark 16:1 which relates the encounter between the three Marys and the angel at Jesus’ empty tomb. Both settings are beautiful but for some reason this setting, even during Taverner’s lifetime,  is far less well-known and far less often performed than Dum transisset Sabbatum I. I think this comparative obscurity is a pity as its spaciousness and rhapsodic intensity make it quite as special as its better known and earlier fellow.

It’s a bit unusual in that Taverner didn’t follow the conventional formula for setting responds (which for present purposes I’ll define as those liturgical texts for which an alternation of ‘solo’ and choral voices was prescribed) of setting the ‘solos’ and leaving the choral part as chant. Instead, perhaps because he was setting it for lavish musical resources and highly skilled choir of Cardinal College, he set choral sections and left the ‘solos’ as unadorned original chant. It’s a five-part setting in which the the tenor voice sings the plainsong in equal value notes. The effect of this musical ‘trick’ which Taverner seems to have been fond of is to create a harmonic rhythm around which the other four voices sing combined counterpoint featuring the liberal use of counterpoint that characterises Taverner’s later works. Enjoy :-).

mfi

Picture: The Three Marys at the Tomb (manuscript illumination of a 1396 antiphonary)  Artist: Lorenzo Monaco (±1370 – ±1425)  Technique: Illumination on vellum  Location: Musée du Louvre, Paris

Picture: The Three Marys at the Tomb (manuscript illumination of a 1396 antiphonary)
Artist: Lorenzo Monaco (±1370 – ±1425)
Technique: Illumination on vellum
Location: Musée du Louvre, Paris

John Taverner (±1490–1545): Dum transisset Sabbatum II

Dum transisset Sabbatum
Maria Magdalene et Maria Jacobi
et Salome emerunt aromata,
ut venientes ungerent Jesum. Alleluia.
Et valde mane una Sabbatorum
veniunt ad monumentum,
orto iam sole.

Mark 16:1.
Third  Respond at Matins on Easter Sunday

When the Sabbath was over
Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James
and Salome bought aromatic oils
intending to go and anoint Jesus. Alleluia.
And very early on the first day of the week
they came to the tomb,
just after sunrise.

Performers: Blue Heron

2 thoughts on “John Taverner (±1490–1545): Dum transisset Sabbatum II

    • It’s entirely possible that was the intent – musicians felt entirely free to borrow good music when they heard it and take it further. That it occurs so early on in the piece would tend to further strenghten that the similarity was intentional.

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