The earliest known source of the Missa Te Deum laudamus
, set for SAATTB, is a manuscript in the Papal Chapel, Codex 32, into which it was copied in 1585. Later included in Palestrina’s ninth book of Masses, published in Venice in 1599, the Mass, like the chant on which it is based, is in the Phrygian mode, which in modern terms can be regarded as a modal form of E minor. Haberl, a late nineteenth-century editor of the complete works of Palestrina, commented that ‘this gives the Mass a certain severity of colouring, but [it is] full of holy fire’. This is a paraphrase Mass, which means it is based on an existing chant, in this case the ‘Te Deum’, from which it draws some of its musical material, often as a source of melodic motifs. An example of this can be heard in the opening bars of the Kyrie where, in their first entry, the basses sing the notes to which the words ‘Te Deum laudamus’ are set in the first half verse of the chant.
from notes by Jon Dixon © 2010