William Byrd’s five-voice setting of the Ash Wednesday motet Emendemus in melius
was published in 1575 in the Cantiones sacrae
, a publication issued jointly by Byrd and his supposed teacher Thomas Tallis. The collection includes seventeen motets by Tallis and seventeen by Byrd, and was published to celebrate the completion of the seventeenth year of Elizabeth I’s reign. Emendemus in melius
is the fourth motet in the collection, but the first by Byrd (since Tallis, the more senior composer, provided the first three). This pole-position placement is testament to the affection that Byrd himself held for this masterly composition. The astonishingly uplifting part-writing at the words ‘et propter honorem’ honours not only the name of God, but also the monarch who sponsored the publication.
from notes by Jeremy Summerly © 2013