Robert White (±1538-1574): Magnificat

When Morley, was writing his A Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (1597) he listed White as one of the greatest English composers saying that he was equal to de Lassus and included him in a list of seven eminent Tudor composers that included "Fayrfax, Taverner, Sheppard, Whyte, Parsons and Mr Byrd." Whenever I listen to White’s setting of the Magnificat I can see why Morley who was no mean composer himself and had studied under Byrd was so admiring of White’s talents as a composer. It’s a six-part setting (SATTBB)  but the way in which White configures and reconfigures his gimmels means that you in fact need eight for example depending on key SSAA for example. It’s an alternatim setting in which the contrast between the  contrapuntal verses depth and the plainchant serve to highlight the breadth of White’s musical imagination and his deep mastery of counterpoint. It is as Matthew O’Donovan puts it in his notes to this performance a contrapuntal ‘tour de force’ in which some verses are scored for full six-part choir and the plainsong Magnificat tone appearing as the cantus firmus in the tenor part while in others White subdivides the parts changing textures seemingly almost at will creating a range of different textures which he weaves together into a complex but deeply satisfying whole. Enjoy :-)


Robert White (±1538-1574): Magnificat

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.


Stile Antico

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