Latin settings of
magnificat & Nunc dimittis

Anglican musicians wishing to programme Latin settings of the Magnificat for use in Evensong are often faced with a problem: while there are countless settings of the Magnificat written for Vespers, there are considerably fewer Latin settings of the Nunc dimittis. For example, Victoria wrote 18 Magnificats but only 1 Nunc. Palestrina wrote 35 Magnificats but only 6 Nuncs. This is of course because the Nunc dimittis has a considerably smaller role in the Catholic liturgy, being used for the office of Compline and for the feast of the Purification of Mary in January. (Settings for the latter feast don't include the Gloria Patri.)

Many editions of Latin Magnificats have been produced, but very few decent editions of Latin Nunc dimittis settings have been produced. It can therefore be very difficult for Anglican musicians to pair a suitable Nunc dimittis with a particular Magnificat.

To this end, Ancient Groove Music is producing a series of Latin Magnificat and Nunc dimittis settings by leading European Renaissance composers. This will allow the easy pairing of suitable material, and also provide quality editions of rarely seen works.

Antonio Caldara

Caldara wrote one concertato setting of the Nunc dimittis, for SATB choir and soli with 2 violins and continuo. Taken from a set of parts, dated 1730, in the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Additional ripieno parts for brass and bassoon double the tutti choir voices. An ideal accompaniment to any 18th-century Magnificat setting for choir and instruments.

Nunc dimittis for SATB choir and soli, 2 violins and continuo.
Instrumental parts for 2 violins, basso continuo and ripieno instruments are available on request.

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Orlande de Lassus

Lassus wrote 13 settings of the Nunc dimittis, for five and four voices. Like his Magnificat settings, they are all falsobordone settings, with the odd verses as plainsong. Some of these are 'parody' settings on other works by Lassus and Cipriano de Rore (1516 - 1565), having titles such as 'Heu mihi, Domine', or 'Io son si stanco'. By comparison, he wrote over 100 Magnificat settings.

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis septimi toni (SATB

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis octavi toni (SATB)

Nunc dimittis "Heu mihi, Domine" (SATTB)

Nunc dimittis quarti toni 5vv (SSATB)

These are all found in two German choir-book manuscripts dated 1565. All are alternating verses between plainsong and polyphony. (The even verses are set to music.) These editions provide the plainsong music between each composed verse.

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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Palestrina wrote 6 settings of the Nunc dimittis, including a 12-part setting for 3 choirs, offered here free. A 4-part settings for men's voices is also available, paired with a Magnificat in the same tone and for the same voices.

Magnificat & Nunc dimittis, tertii toni for men's voices (ATTB)

Palestrina wrote 2 settings of the Magnificat for 4 voices in the 3rd tone. One of them sets the even verses, leaving the odd verses as plainsong, and the other sets the odd verses, leaving the even verses as plainsong. (It might be possible to combine both settings, though there are some practical obstacles.) Palestrina's setting of the Nunc dimittis for 4 voices in the third tone is for the same vocal parts as one of the Magnificat settings, so the two works sit nicely together. The original parts are written in chiavette alte (high clefs), implying downward transposition, so the music has been transposed down a fourth, to become suitable for Alto, Alto/Tenor, Tenor/Baritone and Bass.

Source: Opera omnia (Leipzig 1870-92). Volume 7, containing the 12-part work is edited by Franz Espagne, and Volumes 31 and 32 are edited by Franz Xaver Haberl. Volume 31 contains a four-part setting with music for only verses 1 and 5 (the Gloria). However, near-identical music is found in Volume 32, in verse 2 of another setting, the rest of which is for five voices. Its appearance here may be an error.
This edition takes the music for verses 1 and 5, and applies the music from verse 2 of the other setting to the text of verse 3, thus creating a standard falsobordone of alternating plainsong and polyphony. The third-tone plainsong is provided for the even verses.

The music of this work may be familiar as the source of the Matin Responsory in Carols for Choirs 2, which is described as ‘adapted from a Magnificat by Palestrina’. No one is credited with the adaptation.

Nunc dimittis tertii toni for 3 choirs (ATTB - SATB - ATTB)  FREE!

A setting by Palestrina for three choirs (needing five tenors!), offered here free.

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Thomas tallis

Thomas Tallis composed a setting of the Magnificant and Nunc dimittis in Latin. The music in the first section of each work is the same, suggesting that they were designed to be performed together. Beyond that, little is known about when, or for what liturgy, it might have been written. It is a unique example of a paired set of Anglican Evening canticles in Latin.

It is scored for six voices (five in all but one verse), with two Treble parts, two broadly similar Contratenor/Tenor parts, a Baritone/Tenor, and Bass.

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Tomàs Luis de Victoria

Victoria only wrote 1 setting of the Nunc dimittis, in the third tone. Here it is!

Victoria: Nunc dimittis tertii toni (SATB). FREE!

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