John Taverner (±1490–1545): Te Deum

The Te Deum is a very ancient hymn that was sung at the end of Matins on Sundays and major feasts, it was also sung on special occasions of rejoicing or thanksgiving. Because of its length composers in Taverner’s time generally treated it the same way they would treat a psalm as an alternatim setting that is alternating verses of plainsong and polyphony. This practice had its roots in way in which lengthy texts were treated in performance by where each side of a choir would take alternate verses. The nature of the text is such that the chant changes at each of the following text sections:

  1. A hymn to the Trinity
  2. A passage in praise of Christ (‘Tu rex gloriae, Christe’)
  3. A short antiphon (‘Aeterna fac’)
  4. Final section

Which practice Taverner also followed in his polyphony for the piece.

Judging from his extensive use imitation in this setting together with the clarity of the text and part-setting, and the presence of some startlingly modern sounding dissonances I think that he must have composed this fairly late on life. I sat this because it’s very obviously written for an all adult choir which leads me to believe it must have been written after his return to Boston (the choir of St Botolph’s, Boston had no trebles) . As well as the use of dissonance that I mentioned above there’s some very pleasing contrapuntal writing woven around the chant’s melody. Enjoy :-).


John Taverner (±1490–1545): Te Deum

Te Deum laudamus, te Dominum confitemur,
te aeternum Patrem omnis terra veneratur.
Tibi omnes angeli: tibi caeli et universae potestates;
tibi cherubim et seraphim incessabili voce proclamant:
Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Pleni sunt caeli et terra maiestatis gloriae tuae.
Te gloriosus apostolorum chorus,
te prophetarum laudabilis numerus,
te martyrum candidatus laudat exercitus.
Te per orbem terrarum sancta confitetur Ecclesia
Patrem immensae maiestatis;
venerandum tuum verum et unicum Filium,
Sanctum quoque Paraclitum Spiritum.
Tu, rex gloriae Christe.
Tu Patris sempiternus es Filius.
Tu, ad liberandum suscepturus hominem,
non horruisti virginis uterum.
Tu, devicto mortis aculeo,
aperuisti credentibus regna caelorum.
Tu ad dexteram Dei sedes, in gloria Patris.
Iudex crederis esse venturus.
Te ergo, quaesumus, tuis famulis subveni,
quos pretioso sanguine redemisti.
Aeterna fac cum sanctis tuis in gloria numerari.
Salvum fac populum tuum, Domine,
et benedic hereditati tuae.
Et rege eos et extolle illos usque in aeternum.
Per singulos dies benedicimus te,
et laudamus nomen tuum, et in saeculum saeculi.
Dignare, Domine, die isto, sine peccato nos custodire.
Miserere nostri, Domine, miserere nostri.
Fiat misericordia tua Domine super nos,
quemadmodum speravimus in te.
In te, Domine, speravi;
non confundar in aeternum.

We praise you, God, we acknowledge you as Lord,
the whole earth worships you as the eternal Father.
To you all angels: to you the heavens and all powers:
to you the cherubim and seraphim with unceasing voice cry out:
Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts.
The heavens and the earth are full of the majesty of your glory.
The glorious choir of apostles,
the worthy group of prophets,
the shining army of martyrs praise you.
Throughout the circle of lands the holy church acknowledges you
as Father of great majesty;
your venerated, true and only Son,
also the Paraclete Holy Spirit.
You are the king of glory, Christ.
You are the everlasting Son of the Father.
Setting out to save mankind
you did not despise a virgin’s womb.
The sting of death overcome,
you opened for believers the kingdoms of the heavens.
You sit at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.
You are believed to be about to come as judge.
Therefore, we beg you, help your servants,
whom with precious blood you redeemed.
Make them be numbered amongst your saints in eternal glory.
Make your people safe, Lord,
and bless your inheritance.
And rule them, and raise them up for ever.
Every single day we bless you,
and we praise your name, for generations of generations.
Consider it worthwhile, Lord, on that day to keep us without sin.
Have mercy on us, Lord, have mercy on us.
Let your mercy, Lord, be upon us,
inasmuch as we placed our hope in you.
In you, Lord, have I hoped;
may I not be thrown into confusion for ever.

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