Tribulatio et angustia is unusual within Gombert’s œuvre in being modelled on an earlier piece of the same name, perhaps by Philippe Verdelot (c1480–c1531), though more likely anonymous. Although relationships arise on occasion between Gombert’s music and that of other composers, it seems that for the most part the texts that he set, and his manner of doing so, were derived from a contemporary spirituality rather than having their roots in older traditions. The earlier piece is written in the loose contrapuntal style of the second decade of the century, which Gombert intensifies significantly, both by adding a fifth voice and working the melodic material in a much more thoroughgoing way. An instance of this process is found at the phrase ‘meditatio mea est’ (‘[for] my thoughts are [of your commandments]’), where the not especially sensitive word-setting by the earlier composer (emphasizing the unstressed fourth syllable of ‘meditatio’) is retained but rendered unimportant by the introduction of extra entries, so that at least one voice begins the phrase in each bar, obscuring the word-stress. The climax of the piece is found in the second part (not based on the earlier motet), where the terror of the ‘hellish lake’ is made audible by voices at the top of their range, descending a scale as if being dragged downwards into the inferno.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2007