Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat super O bone Jesu

Fayrfax’s 5-part (treble, mean, contratenor, tenor and bass) setting of the Magnificat takes a now lost antiphon O bone Jesu(O good Jesus) as its starting point. It’s and alternatim setting with Fayrfax setting only the even-numbered verses leaving the odd-numbered ones as chant. Like most of his music it combines clarity with some very complex rhythmic writing. It’s a particularly clearly written piece with a balance and a strikingly direct clarity of textual utterance that was very unusual in early Tudor sacred choral music. I find it particularly interesting because Fayrfax achieved this clarity while sticking rigorously to the English descant  putting the original chant melody was in the middle with the other two parts a fourth above and a third below the chant with modified cadences to achieve perfect intervals. Enjoy :-).

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Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat super O bone Jesu

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.

Performers: Magnificat conducted by David Skinner

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