Tristitia et anxietas
has long been known to students of Renaissance polyphony for its apparent influence on the setting of the same text by William Byrd, first noted by Joseph Kerman; however, like the majority of motets it does not appear to have been recorded before now. Its anguished tone is set by the opening imitative point which, in the manner of Clemens’s distinguished older colleague Nicolas Gombert, winds slowly and tortuously around a single pitch, with an opening movement of a semitone. Other obvious emotional tugs are provided at ‘occupaverunt’ (‘have invaded’) with another semitone; ‘Moestum factum est cor meum’ (‘My heart has been made dejected in grief’), which is homophonic and uses the fauxbourdon texture that frequently signals heightened emotion in this repertory; and most obviously at ‘Vae mihi’ (‘Woe unto me’) with block chords high in the choir’s range, and chromaticism that is not written in, but forced by the rules of musica ficta, producing a wrenching harmonic shift that underlines the anguish conveyed by the text. The second section of the piece changes its outlook entirely, trusting in God’s care for those who hope in him (‘sperantes in te’—again highlighted with homophony). Finally the text, emulating Job in its willingness to bless God despite extreme misery, states ‘may your name be blessed now and always’: the final phrase ‘et in saecula saeculorum. Amen’ is subjected to sequential treatment, with a waterfall-like figure that Clemens evidently felt bore repetition in toto.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2010