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:
- A hymn to the Trinity
- A passage in praise of Christ (‘Tu rex gloriae, Christe’)
- A short antiphon (‘Aeterna fac’)
- 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,
We praise you, God, we acknowledge you as Lord,
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