Hyperion Records

Te Deum
possibly by John Sheppard
author of text
Hymn to the Trinity

'Taverner: Western Wynde Mass & other sacred music' (CDH55056)
Taverner: Western Wynde Mass & other sacred music
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55056  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'The Sixteen & The Golden Age of Polyphony' (CDS44401/10)
The Sixteen & The Golden Age of Polyphony
MP3 £35.00FLAC £35.00ALAC £35.00Buy by post £38.50 CDS44401/10  10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
Track 2 on CDH55056 [13'06] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
Track 8 on CDS44401/10 CD3 [13'06] 10CDs Boxed set (at a special price)

Te Deum
The Te Deum is one of the most ancient hymns of the Christian Church. It was traditionally sung at the end of Matins on Sundays and major feasts, as well as on special occasions of rejoicing or thanksgiving. In view of this it is perhaps surprising that so few polyphonic settings of the Latin version have survived; perhaps the length of the text acted as a deterrent. In performance it was treated in the same way as a psalm, with each side of the choir taking alternate verses, a practice reflected here in the alternation of plainsong and polyphony.

The sectional structure of the text: a hymn to the Trinity, a passage in praise of Christ (‘Tu rex gloriae, Christe’), followed by a short antiphon (‘Aeterna fac’) leading into the final section, entails changes of chant, though not of mode, and these changes are of course retained in the polyphonic setting.

The only source of Taverner’s Te Deum is the set of part-books compiled by the Windsor lay clerk John Baldwin and dated 1581, from which the tenor part is missing. The restoration of this part is a fairly straightforward matter since it carries the chant in regular rhythm in every verse except ‘Aeterna fac …’ where the chant migrates to the bass. We may suppose from the extensive use of imitation, as well as the clarity of the part-writing and text-setting, that this is a late work, perhaps composed after Taverner had left Oxford, though whether it was written for a special occasion and what that occasion might have been we cannot now say. Taverner’s mastery of contrapuntal invention is evident in the variety of material he finds to surround the simple chant melody. The full five-voice texture is used throughout, and the scoring is low, which suggests that an adult choir, without boy trebles, was envisaged.

from notes by John Heighway © 2000

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