This two-voice motet was the earliest published example of Monteverdi’s Venetian sacred music and, interestingly, it was issued in an anthology dedicated to Ferdinand, Archduke of Austria, who later, as Emperor Ferdinand II, was the intended dedicatee of Monteverdi’s monumental eighth book of madrigals. The anthology – Parnassus Musicus Ferdinandaeus
(1615) – includes music by composers working in Italy, as well as those working at Ferdinand’s court at Graz. It was edited by Giovan Battista Bonometti, a singer employed by Ferdinand who had earlier worked at Milan Cathedral, where he may have met Monteverdi during one of the composer’s visits to that city. The text of the motet is based on verses 1, 2 and 4 of Psalm 97 (98 in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP) and the English Bible). The musical setting establishes the pattern for many of Monteverdi’s later Venetian motets by contrasting a triple-time refrain, representing singing (‘Cantate Domino’), with passages in duple time, in this case lavishly ornamented in a manner reminiscent of pieces in the 1610 Vespers collection.
from notes by John Whenham © 2004