Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Magnificat Regale

Shortly after he was crowned Henry VIII made clear that Fayrfax stood high in his favour by awarding him the sum of £9 2/6 (nine pounds two shillings and six pence) to be paid on top of Fayrfax’s salary from the Chapel Royal. We don’t know when Fayrfax composed this setting of the Magnificat to…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Aspice, Domine quia facta est

Byrd’s  of the Matins Respond for November was published in the 1575 Cantiones Sacræ. The text is from The Lamentations and it’s a six-part setting for divided tenors and means that clearly shows Ferrabosco’s influence in its Italianate structure of lengthy imitative writing followed by very brief homophonic passages. The effect is quite dark but…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Peccantem me quotidie

Byrd’s five-part (SATTB) setting of the seventh respond at the matins for the dead is a surprisingly old-fashioned piece of writing that harkens back to Fayrfax, Cornysh, and Ludford. It’s a little surprising that Byrd selected such an old-fashioned style as he along with his contemporaries was busy exploring the possibilities offered by the mean…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Nunc Dimittis from the Great Service

Byrd’s settings for the Great Service took Anglican music forward from its hesitant and somewhat experimental phase into somewhat more splendid territory. He probably wrote the Magnificat (about which I wrote last Friday see: William Byrd (±1539-1623): Magnificat from the Great Service | Saturday Chorale) and the Nunc Dimittis last it’s beautiful music which manages…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Deus venerunt gentes

Byrd’s five-part (ATTBB) motet was first published in Cantiones sacrae I in 1589. It’s a response to the execution of Edmund Campion and his companions in 1581. It’s rarely performed now partly because it’s the longest of his imitative motets, partly because it’s a beast to sing, and partly because (very unusually for Byrd) it…

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Alleluia. Ora pro nobis

Tallis’ Alleluia. Ora pro nobis for four voices is a fairly early composition. It’s a liturgical text intended to be sung during the the celebration of a Lady Mass (Lady Masses were daily celebrations of the Mass that used texts relating to the Blessed Virgin Mary) on Tuesdays between Pentecost and Advent. Enjoy :-) markfromireland

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Absterge Domine

Absterge Domine was one of Tallis’ greatest hits. It’s one of his ‘devotional’ Elizabethan Latin motets (i.e. its text is non-liturgical,) and despite the fact that it was intended for private use it appears in no less than four contrafacta as well as in the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae. It’s deeply penitential with short sections some…

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (±1525-1594): Stabat Mater

Palestrina’s ‘Stabat Mater’ was written around 1589 and is that musical paradox a miniature on a grand scale written in the Venetian polychoral style. It’s harmonies are modal which gives an atmosphere of nostalgia and regret to Palestrina’s word painting. It’s the musical equivalent of the paintings of the grieving mother at the foot of…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Ad Dominum cum tribularer a8

Byrd’s eight-part setting of Ad Dominum cum tribularer (Unto the Lord in my distress) is one of his largest and most eloquent compositions. It’s poignant text speaking of persecution and injustice was perfect for setting as a musical cry from the heart bewailing the persecution of his fellow Catholics in a newly hostile and alien…