Ave Verum Corpus – Sheet Music

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Perhaps the crowning glory from the second book of Gradualia published in 1607 under Byrd and Tallis’ monopoly on printing music.

Byrd’s Catholic leanings were common knowledge by now and in fact some people were arrested for even owning a copy of this. He adds his own very Catholic words to the end of this text – “O Dulcis, O Pie, O Jesu….”  Performances of such works tool place in secret, almost certainly at the house of Lord Petre where Byrd had a safe hiding place.

Many people are familiar with the Mozart setting of these words but Byrd’s should be known more widely.  One of the most amazing things to grasp with this type of Renaissance music is the lack of any full score – the only manuscripts that exist are single parts with no bar lines. Therefore the composer would have formed the entire score in his or her head before writing out the parts one by one, with a full sense of how the parts fit round each other in perfect

The final section is repeated for emphasis, and we have marked this pp, because perhaps this is one of those instances when less is more.

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