Cipriano de Rore (c1515-1565): Fratres: Scitote

The second of two five-part motets by De Rore that take their text from the writings of St. Paul  Fratres: Scitote  (Brothers: Know this) sets 1 Corinthians 11: 23-24  in which Paul recounts how during the Last Supper Jesus instituted Holy Communion by taking bread, blessing it, and distributing it. The motet is a bit…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Circumdederunt me

The tessitura of Byrd’s surprisingly continental sounding five-part (ATTBB) setting of Circumdederunt me the text of which is adapted from Psalm 17 verses 5-7  in the Vulgate moves ever upwards becoming ever more intense until we come to his pleas O Domine, libera animam meam (O Lord, free my soul) at which point the music…

Robert White (±1538-1574): Miserere mei, Deus

White’s five-part (ATTBarB) setting of the Miserere consists chordal singing interspersed with imitative. It’s possible that White set it intending it to be sung alongside the Lamentations to which it bears a distinct resemblance particularly in the way in which in the block chords one voice leads the others thereby providing the vocal clarity that…

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…

Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611): Ascendens Christus in altum – Gradualia

This impressive live performance of Victoria’s five-part (SSATB) Ascension motet Ascendens Christus in altum (Christ ascending on high) shows what a small talented choir can do with Victoria’s wonderfully sunny and happy music. Modern performances of Victoria’s music tend to involve large forces but as Gradualia’s excellent performance which you can hear below clearly demonstrates…

Peter Philips (1560-1628): Ascendit Deus

Peter Philips’ five-part setting of the Offertory motet Ascendit Deus (God has ascended) was written In Festo Ascensionis Domini it takes its text from Psalm Psalm 46 (47): 5 and 102 (103):19. As you might expect from Philips it’s a superbly written piece of  music which opens with a marvellous rising figure before moving on…

Giaches de Wert (1535-96): Hoc enim sentite in vobis

This more than somewhat madrigalian motet was published in 1581 in de Wert’s Il Secondo libro de motetti a cinque voci when he was at the height of his compositional powers. It’s SATTB and  takes its text from Philippians 2:5-11 and has an interesting musical structure in which the second half of the motet is…