Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Sancte Deus by Thomas Tallis

I was thrilled yesterday to find that a huge new series of performances by the Tallis Scholars have made their way onto youtube. In particular, I love this motet by Thomas Tallis: Sancte Deus. The text provides a lovely connection between East and West - more familiar in Eastern liturgy but known in the Roman Rite for its Good Friday association, though it is not limited to that. The setting is not musically inaccessible to a good parish schola.

The drama is intense but understated in this performance. You will hear challenging dissonance here, and the modal structure again reinforces my growing impression that music of the 16th century was more complex and sophisticated than it became in the baroque period. Listening especially to the way the final Amen summarizes the piece and provides an excellent culmination and fulfillment of all that came before.

Sancte Deus, Sancte Fortis, Sancte et Immortalis, miserere nobis.
Nunc, Christe, te petimus, miserere, quaesumus.
Qui venisti redimere perditos, noli damnare redemptos:
Quia per crucem tuam redemisti mundum. Amen.

Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy and Immortal One, have mercy upon us.
Now, O Christ, we ask thee, we beseech thee, have mercy.
Thou who came to redeem the lost, do not condemn the redeemed:
For by thy cross thou hast redeemed the world. Amen.

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