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Tantum ergo


Transcription by Frans Wiering

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Source Loc. Title Voices Attribution


Source: Hymn "Pange lingua gloriosi", stanzas 5 and 6

Tantum ergo sacramentum

Veneremur cernui

Et antiquum documentum

Novo cedat ritui

Prestet fides supplementum

Sensuum defectui

Genitori genitoque

Laus et jubilatio

Salus honor virtus quoque

Sit et benedictio

Procedenti ab utroque

Compar sit laudatio
Falling headlong therefore

Let us venerate so great a Sacrament,

And let the ancient pattern

Yield to a new rite.

Let faith complete

The shortcomings of the senses.

To Begetter and Begotten

Be praise and rejoicing,

Salvation, honor, virtue likewise,

And blessing.

To the One who proceeds from both

Be equal commendation.

Editor's Commentary

This anonymous composition is a setting of strophes 5 and 6 of the hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, sung at the Procession of Corpus Christi. It is based on the Mode 3 melody of the hymn (discussed further below). This melody is not presented in single, cantus firmus-carrying voice - all voices contain phrases that are freely invented as well as ones that derive from the hymn melody. Phrases from the hymn are never presented literally but are usually ornamented and reshaped, especially towards the end. Often such paraphrases occur in more than one voice, while the remaining ones provide free counterpoint that is enlivened by bits of semiminim movement in parallel thirds or tenths, or in complementary rhythms that suggest free imitation between the voices. On some occasions, all four voices are based on a motive derived from the hymn melody; for example, in the striking passage in mm. 113-118, the four voices enter with the unadorned breve-length notes C-E-G-E at a semibreve distance (cf. mm. 35-42). The short distance at which the imitation occurs and the resulting overlap of motives is quite characteristic, producing in one case (mm. 19-20) parallel fifths that might have been evaded if the composer had been willing to sacrifice melodic integrity.

While the first part of the composition creates an impression of relative homogeneity, the second offers more variation through a passage (mm. 85-99) in two-part counterpoint - repeated in the complementary voice pair - immediately followed by a homophonic passage for the words "sit et benedictio," suggesting perhaps that at this point an actual blessing was given.

Pre-existent material: Plainchant hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, treated as basis of melodic lines and points of imitation

Pange lingua chant
Cambrai, Bibliothèque municipale, Impr. XVI C 4, f. 73v (Cambrai antiphoner, c. 1508-1518)

The melody is never stated in its unparaphrased form in this composition, so it is difficult to determine how far the model of the composition is removed from the melody shown above. It seems likely, though, that phrase 4 began A-C-G-G-E/F-A, and that phrase 6 began A-C-G-(A)-G. As already appears from these examples, phrase beginnings are not entirely consistent, and there are few clues about the exact phrase endings of the model.

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