The Magnificat is conservative: perhaps an inevitable consequence of White’s decision to follow a tradition of settings of this canticle which had originally evolved from John Taverner’s six-part version. White copied Taverner (as did Parsons and Mundy in their Magnificat settings) in using a basic choir of treble, mean, two altos, tenor and bass, which is sub-divided for some of the verses but includes a triple gimell of two trebles, two means and two basses at ‘Esurientes’. (Much of the treble part, as at ‘Esurientes’, is missing and has been reconstructed by Sally Dunkley.) Between the three magnificently spacious full-choir statements (‘Et exsultavit’, ‘Fecit potentiam’, and ‘et in saecula’) the ebb and flow of trios and quartets is carefully handled. The influence of Taverner’s mature style is audible at, for example, ‘Sicut locutus est’, where the plainchant appears in the mean, with the two alto and tenor parts intertwining beneath it.
from notes by Peter Phillips © 1995