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Confitebor tibi Domine

tenor part reconstructed by Owen Rees
author of text
adapted from Isaiah 12

The Baldwin Partbooks are our main source for the music of John Sheppard, containing more items by Sheppard than by any other composer, and indeed Baldwin marked his high estimation of the composer by giving him pride of place, opening the books with a group of his motets. This group comprises Psalm-motets except for one work with an unusual and intriguing text, Confitebor tibi Domine. This text is based upon a passage from the Book of Isaiah, but this has been substantially altered in ways that would have made it particularly appropriate to the first year or so of Mary Tudor’s reign, from August 1553, while she was working to restore Catholicism as the country’s official faith, but before the official reconciliation with the Church of Rome and absolution of the nation in late 1554. In Isaiah’s text the Lord’s anger has already been turned away and the speaker has been comforted, whereas in Sheppard’s version the divine forgiveness is yet to be achieved: ‘let your anger be turned away and you will comfort me’. The new text inserts references to the joy brought by the return to and spreading of (true Catholic) ‘doctrine’, and concludes with the exultation of ‘the blessed church of Christ’. Sheppard chose a style for his motet which is far from the slowly unfolding grandeur of the Psalm-motets by William Mundy and Robert White, and which foregrounds the dramatic delivery of text, presenting it compactly with clear-cut divisions into short musical paragraphs, using abundant chordal declamation and antiphonal exchanges between high and lower voices.

from notes by Owen Rees © 2020


The Sweetest Songs
Studio Master: SIGCD633Download onlyStudio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available


Track 8 on SIGCD633 [6'14] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD633 track 8

Recording date
21 April 2016
Recording venue
The Church of St Michael and All Angels, Summertown, Oxford, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Adrian Peacock
Recording engineer
David Hinitt
Hyperion usage
  1. The Sweetest Songs (SIGCD633)
    Disc 1 Track 8
    Release date: February 2021
    Download only
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