William Byrd (±1539-1623): Tribue Domine

William Byrd captioned 150x220px When Queen Mary died the Catholic Church as the spiritual home of the English people rapidly followed her into the grave. No doubt the more strongly protestant wing of the reformers hoped that the practice of setting Latin texts to music for religious purposes would quickly become a thing of the past and had Edward VI survived their wish may well have come to pass. However he died before he could make a major impact as did Mary. Elizabeth however lived and reigned more than long enough to fundamentally alter English society. She sought a compromise between her own Catholic inclinations and the reformers and one such compromise was that she permitted Latin-texted music to continue to be written and even sung in certain institutions such as Universities.

In 1575 she licensed Tallis and Byrd to ‘to imprint any and so many as they will of set songe or songes in partes, either in English, Latine,… or other tongues that may serue for musicke either in Churche or chamber’ for a period of twenty-one years and on Ascension day of that year (17 November) they presented her with the first copy of Cantiones Sacræ in token of their gratitude and celebrating the fact that she had now reigned for seventeen years. As a collection of music it’s a tour de force but two pieces in particular stand out Suscipe, quaeso Domine and Tribue, Domine. The text of Tribue, Domine is taken from a book of meditations attributed to Augustine, which perhaps somewhat surprisingly was popular both amongst Byrd’s fellow recusants and the more "protestant" wing of the reformers, just to keep everyone happy there’s some evidence that Elizabeth herself was both aware of and approved of its contents.

Byrd set the text using homophony, antiphonal writing and two-, three-, five- and six-part polyphony to maintain both momentum and interest as well staying musically close to the text’s meaning and intent. It’s very strongly reminiscent of a votive antiphon and is one of the first examples of a setting where he alternates between ‘full’ and ‘verse’ sections  — a technique that he went on develop further to great most notably in Infelix ego.


William Byrd (±1539-1623): Tribue Domine

Tribue, Domine, ut donec in hoc fragili
corpore positus sum laudet te cor meum,
laudet te lingua mea, et omnia ossa mea
dicant: Domine, quis similis tui?
Tu es Deus omnipotens, quem trinum
in personis, et unum in substantia deitatis
colimus et adoramus:
Patrem ingenitum, Filium de Patre unigenitum,
Spiritum Sanctum de utroque procedentem
et in utroque permanentem,
sanctam et individuam Trinitatem,
unum Deum omnipotentem.

Grant, O Lord, that while I am in this fragile
body my heart may praise you, my tongue may
praise you, and all my being may say:
Lord, who is there like you?
You are Almighty God whom
we worship and adore, three persons,
and one divine essence:
the Father unbegotten, the only begotten Son
of the Father, the Holy Spirit who proceeds
from both, yet abides in both,
the holy and undivided Trinity,
one God omnipotent.

Te deprecor, supplico et rogo, auge fidem,
auge spem, auge charitatem:
Fac nos per ipsam gratiam tuam semper in fide
stabiles, et in opere efficaces,
ut per fidem rectam, et condigna
fidei opera, ad vitam, te miserante,
perveniamus aeternam.

I pray, beseech and entreat you: increase my
faith, increase my hope, increase my charity.
By your grace make us always steadfast in our
faith, and successful in our deeds,
that through true faith and deeds
worthy of that faith we may come,
by your mercy, to eternal life.

Gloria Patri, qui creavit nos,
gloria Filio, qui redemit nos:
gloria Spiritui Sancto, qui sanctificavit nos:
gloria summae et individuae Trinitati,
cuius opera inseparabilia sunt,
cuius imperium sine fine manet.
Te decet laus, te decet hymnus, tibi debetur
omnis honor, tibi benedictio et claritas, tibi
gratiarum actio, tibi honor, virtus et fortitudo,
Deo nostro, in saecula saeculorum,

Glory be to the Father, who created us.
Glory be to the Son who redeemed us.
Glory be to the Holy Spirit who sanctified us.
Glory be to the highest and undivided Trinity,
whose works are inseparable,
whose kingdom abides for ever.
You are worthy of praise, worthy of songs
of praise: all honour and blessing and glory,
thanksgiving, honour, perfection and might
be yours, our God, for ever and ever.

Magnificat, conducted by Philip Cave

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