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…

William Byrd (±1539-1623): Da mihi auxilium

I’ve written about Byrd’s six-part setting of a text from Psalm 107 before that posting featured a performance by The Cardinall’s Musick under Andrew Carwood, it’s a fine performance as is this somewhat different perfomance by I Fagiolini under Robert Hollingworth which is well worth hearing not only in its own right but also by…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): The secret sins

Mundy wrote The secret sins fairly late on in life it’s an early example of a piece in which a single voice with an independent accompaniment is echoed by a choir singing as one. The model for this novelty was most likely the choirboy plays performed by boys from St Paul’s, the Chapel Royal, and…

Philippe de Monte (1521-1603): Fratres, ego enim accepi

Textually this is a very odd motet indeed in it de Monte takes two very different texts and stitches them together in such a way that we first have a narrative and then a commentary upon that narrative. The narrative is the text of vv23–24 of 1 Corinthians which paraphrases the Gospels’ recounting of the…

Jacquet de Mantua (1483 -1559): O pulcherrima inter mulieres

This three-part (SSA) motet is one of a collection of motets entitled Motetta trium vocum for three voices  by several composers1 including Jacquet de Mantua published in Venice in 1543 by Antonio Gardano. It’s a bitter-sweet setting whose text using imagery from the Song of Songs reflects the emotional anguish that can be caused by…

Derrick Gerarde (fl c1540–80): Sive vigilem

Gerarde was a Flemish composer who moved to England where he worked for first Henry Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel, and then his son-in-law Lord Lumley very little is known of his life and anything you read about him is at best  speculative and at worst downright misleading. Most of his surviving music is found in…

Peter Philips (±1560-1628): O quam suavis

This is the second of two settings by Philips of O quam suavis the Magnificat Antiphon for First Vespers on the Feast of Corpus Christi, it’s an eight-part (SATB.SATB) setting  and was published in the 1613 in the first edition of his Cantiones sacrae octonis vocibus. The setting is a bit unusual in that he…

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…

Luca Marenzio (±1554 – 1599): O Rex gloriae

Luca Marenzio, better known for his madrigals than his sacred music although he did produce one book of sacred madrigals his Motectorum pro festis totius anni in 1585 from which this setting of  O Rex gloriae (O King of glory) the Antiphon to the Magnificat for Second Vespers at Ascension comes. It’s a four-part setting…

Alessandro Grandi (±1586 – 1630): O quam tu pulchra es

There are quite a few good performances on YouTube  of Grandi’s motet based upon the Song of Songs for soloist with continuo accompaniment, including this very nice performance by Philippe Jaroussky one which tends to be overlooked is this rendition by Arianna Vendittelli, accompanied by Renato Criscuolo and Simone Vallerotornda of Musicaperduta. Enjoy :-). mfi

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…