Hyperion Records

Retribue servo tuo
5vv AAT(T)barB(B); Christ Church, Oxford, MSS 984-988, The Dow Partbooks
author of text
Psalm 118 (119): 17-24

'Parsons: Sacred Music' (CDA67874)
Parsons: Sacred Music
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Retribue servo tuo
Retribue servo tuo is a setting of the third portion of Psalm 119. There are a further eight contemporary settings of these verses: one by Christopher Tye, three from William Mundy and four from White. Parsons’ setting is reminiscent of the old Votive Antiphon style, starting with just three voices before expanding briefly to four parts, then back to three and then four, before the first full-choir entry at ‘Increpasti superbos’. Similarly, the second section begins with a trio before moving to a quintet with a bass gimell before the final full section. It is rare to find detailed expression of text in Votive Antiphons (Fayrfax’s Maria plena virtute being a notable exception) but the full-choir flourishes could often be used for dramatic effect either to underline the importance of a portion of text or a particular word. Parsons divides the Psalm unequally with five verses in the first section and only three in the second and thus highlights the following verses with full choir writing:

Increpasti superbos,
maledicti qui declinant a mandatis tuis.
[You have rebuked the proud,
cursed are they that do err from your commandments.]


Nam et testimonia tua meditatio mea est,
et consilium meum iustificationes tuae.
[For your testimonies are my delight,
and your judgments my counsellors.]

Once again Parsons’ control of drama is evident with his imaginative use of the solo sections, fooling the listener into thinking that the full choir is about to enter only to continue with differently scored solo writing. He provides a short but masterful ‘Amen’ coda, choosing a dotted subject for imitation which impels the listener forward to the final cadence. Parsons also shows his fascination with the interval of a seventh, one that needs some form of cloaking in order to sound acceptable to sixteenth-century ears. This he achieves by breaking the interval in two, most often a third followed by a fifth, or vice versa (‘non abscondas a me’, ‘a mandatis tuis’, ‘servus autem tuus’ and ‘meditatio mea est’).

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2011

Track-specific metadata
Details for CDA67874 track 5
Recording date
17 November 2010
Recording venue
Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Jonathan Freeman-Attwood
Recording engineer
Martin Haskell
Hyperion usage
  1. Parsons: Sacred Music (CDA67874)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: October 2011
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