William Mundy (±1529-1591): Adolescentulus sum ego

This six-part through-composed votive antiphon sets Psalm 118:141-142 in the Vulgate1 . It’s a bit scaled down but still very substantial in terms of its structure and its musical texture which consists of very tightly woven imitative polyphony gets ever richer as the motet progresses. It’s more proof, if proof were needed, that Mundy was…

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…

Antoine Brumel (±1460 — ±1513): Sicut lilium inter spinas

His contemporaries ranked Brumel’s music highly comparing him favourably with both Josquin and Ockeghem. His four-part (SATB or ATTB) setting of Sicut lilium inter spinas (As the lily among thorns) Song of Solomon 2: 2 which at that time was the Antiphon for Matins of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is quite typical…

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…

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…

Jacquet of Mantua (1483-1559): Ave Maria

Jacquet of Mantua was born Jacques Colebault in Vitré, Brittany, in 148 he’s referred to as Jacquet of Mantua to distinguish him from another composer Jacquet de Berchem. He was yet another northerner who went south to Italy where he worked for a variety of patrons amongst the Rangoni of Modena, the Estes, until in…

Josquin Des Prez (±1450 1521): Virgo salutiferi

In 1503 Duke Ercole I of Ferrara overruled his advisers and employed Josquin as maestro di cappella they’d advised him to hire Heinrich Isaac instead of Josquin because he was easier to get on with, was more companionable, far less inclined to make a fuss about composing on demand, and last but by no means…