The function of Marian antiphons such as Gaude plurimum
was devotional rather than liturgical; their performance after the end of the office of Compline was written into the statutes of various educational foundations such as Eton College, King’s College, Cambridge, and, in 1525, Cardinal College, Oxford, where antiphons to the Trinity and to St William of York were specified in addition to the customary Marian ones. Judging by the number of sources in which it is preserved, Gaude plurimum
was held in especially high regard in the sixteenth century. Drawing on traditions established some decades earlier, Taverner generated a musical structure out of the contrast between passages scored for two or three voices and those for sonorous five-part choir, and thereby lent a sense of direction to this extended and effusive text. Much of the writing is imitative in style and concentrated in manner, with melismas generally being reserved for the conclusion of each section.
from notes by Sally Dunkley © 2000