Confitebor tibi Domine

Giovanni Gabrieli, publ. 1615

Confitebor tibi Domine a 13 in tre cori (“for thirteen parts in three choirs”) is a motet in which Gabrieli takes advantage of contrasts in tonal range among choruses. For the most part, the first choir (sopranos, altos, tenors, basses, SATB) sticks to the upper vocal range — even the bass is more a baritone, venturing below c only once. The middle choir (STTTB) on the other hand, uses weightier low voices; it includes a soprano part, but the bass remains in its lowest register, as low as D in places. The third choir balances these two, remaining in a more customary range, albeit with an alto for the highest voice. Like the preceding canzon, it is a transposed Dorian work, but feels decidedly more reserved. The words, taken here and there from the Book of Psalms, are as follows:

Confitebor tibi Domine in toto corde meo

I shall praise Thee, Lord with all my heart

narrabo omnia mirabilia tua

I shall tell of all Thy wonders

laetabor et exultabo in te

I shall be glad and rejoice in Thee

psallam nomini tuo altissime

I shall sing Your most high name

exultabit cor meum in salutari tuo

my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation

cantabo Domino qui bona tribuit mihi

I shall sing [the name of] the Lord who bestows good [things] upon me

et psallam nomini Domini altissimi

and sing the name of the Lord most high

psallite Domino qui habitat in Syon

Sing [the name of] the Lord who dwells in Zion

annunciate inter gentes opera eius

Proclaim His works among all peoples

regnabit Dominus in aeternum et in saeculum saeculi.

The Lord shall reign forever world without end.


The motet begins with the second chorus in low register singing the first phrase in various points of imitation; the second clause in toto corde meo (“in all my heart”) with a little more motion. This somewhat staid opening is then picked up by the first chorus in higher register with more motion on narrabo (“I shall tell”), then the first and second choruses come together with omnia mirabilia tua (“all Thy marvels”) in a more chordal texture and culminating in a perfect cadence. Now follows a passage in triple metre, the third chorus finally joins while the first two alternately proclaim laetabor et exultabo in te (“I shall be glad and rejoice in Thee”). The first choir resumes in duple metre with a more contemplative exultabit cor meum in salutari tuo (“my heart shall rejoice in Thy salvation”), after which comes florid work on cantabo (“I shall sing”). The alternating entries on the first syllable heighten the tension, emphasize the sense of the words, and produce a startling echo effect. The choirs resume alternating phrases through cantabo Domino qui bona tribuit mihi et psallam nomini Domini altissimi (“I shall sing of the Lord most high who bestows good things upon me”) concluding with vocal flourishes on altissimi (“most high”).

The pace quickens again with triple metre, the choirs alternately exhorting psallite Domino qui habitat in Syon, annunciate inter gentes opera eius (“sing of the Lord who dwelleth in Zion and tell among all people His works”). When duple metre returns, all three choruses majestically affirm regnabit Dominus in aeternum et in saecula saeculi (“the Lord shall reign eternally forever and ever”) together. The affirmation is repeated, then followed by Gabrieli’s brief coda, bringing the work to a stately close.


⇐ Gabrieli, Canzon primi toni | Gabrieli, In ecclesiis

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