The Magnificat octavi toni
, one of a set of eight representing each of the Psalm tones, is a fine example of this highly popular genre of Renaissance Gebrauchsmusik
. Outlining in every verse the motif G–A–G–C that defines the eighth tone, the piece nevertheless responds to the necessity to create a different mood for each verse: for instance the three-part ‘Esurientes implevit bonis’ (‘He has filled the hungry with good things’) stands in sharp distinction to the duet ‘Fecit potentiam’ (‘He has shown the power’). The latter combines the aggression of the text with a highly polished piece of duet writing. As the contemporary theorist Nicola Vicentino put it in 1555, writing for two voices is harder than for more: ‘Every painter depicts a completely clothed figure quite well, whereas not all painters can do the same with a nude’ (tr. Maria Rika Maniates).
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2009