Unlike O altitudo divitiarum
, which attracted settings from over a dozen of Rore’s contemporaries, of whom Orlande de Lassus (1530/2–1594) is easily the best known, Fratres: Scitote
is apparently a unique instance of composition to its text. St Paul here tells the story of the Last Supper, in which Jesus takes bread, blesses and distributes it, and thereby institutes the ritual of Holy Communion. Spoken or sung during every celebration of the Mass, these words were (and remain) known to all Christians as among the most sacred: it is possible that this very centrality to the Mass liturgy accounts for the lack of parallel settings of this text. These were words uttered by the celebrating priest, rather than being delegated to singers; Rore’s motet would therefore have been more suitable for private devotional performance than as an appendage to the liturgy. Whatever the reason for the text’s comparative neglect by composers, this setting is one of the finest motets of the entire century. Rore begins with a forthright declamation of the word ‘Brothers’, which is demarcated as a separate introductory section; the texture is then built up from the bass, with echoes in the doubled upper voice, before a homophonic treatment of the Holy Name of Jesus. The following narrative of the blessing of bread is treated in an imitative style that is somewhat archaic in pairing upper and lower voices one after another; a sonorous descending phrase sets the words ‘Take and eat’, before the central ‘this is my body’ is set off entirely from the surrounding texture in block chords. These are notated in triple time, using the technique of coloration to separate this section on the page, as well as to create the effect of a series of fermatas, yet without the underlying tactus being suspended. The assertion of the Real Presence in communion is thus treated as an appropriately divine mystery in musical terms. The final section reverts to duple time to round off the motet with a repeated statement of the phrase ‘do this in remembrance of me’.
from notes by Stephen Rice © 2013