Orlando Gibbons – Hosanna to the Son of David

The piece “Hosanna to the Son of David” was originally in an F-major key, the version I found is a major second lower, in Eb-major. It is written for 6 voices; Soprano I, Soprano II, Alto I, Alto II, Tenor and Bass. Unlike the pieces I’ve observed before (April is in my Mistress’ Face and Fyer,fyre by Thomas Morley) the voices have more individual entries throughout the whole piece. It is furthermore in a medium slow pace and has a calm character.

The composition can be divided into 5 parts which are each completed with one Eb-chord where every voice sings a note at the same time (with a few exceptions). For the rest of the piece they all have entries at different times, they nevertheless all have the same text within one section. None of those five parts seems to be the most imported or most outstanding one. They are all compositionally  similar to one another.

In the first part all of the voices have a similar sequence at the beginning, whereas Soprano I & II, Tenor and Bass start on the tonic of the scale Eb and the two Altos start on the dominant Bb. For the completion of the first part every voice, except for the bass lands on a Eb chord in bar 12.

For the beginning of he second part all voices start on an Eb, except for the Tenor voice, which starts on G (the major third). Similar to the start of the first part  most of them move upwards within the next few bars, except for the two Sopranos, which make a contrary motion downwards. This part ends in bar 21 the same way as part 1 on a Eb-chord , which is bulid up by every voice this time.

The third part has different entries again on either the tonic or the dominant. There are two exceptions this time, which give this part of the piece a more colourful sound : Alto II makes the second last entry for this part on F and the Bass, which only joins in much later than the other voice starts on an A. This part is slightly longer to the previous ones and creates a harmony, that sounds a tiny bit more dramatic than the previous parts. It ends the same way the second part ended, except for that some of the voices where given different notes of the Eb-triad.

The start of the fourth part is the only time where at least three voices sing the same text at the same time (except for the end chords of the parts), which creates a nice difference, even though this sequence doesn’t last for long. After three bars they all starts drifting apart from one another again. The end of this part isn’t as clearly defined as the other ones. This is due to the bass already starting with the 5th part before the rest of the voices, except for the Tenor build up to form another Eb-triad in bar 61.

Part 5 is with only 6 bars by far the shortest. It starts similar to the third part and ends as all the other ones do. With every voice singing and an ritardando at the end.

To me the piece seemed rather long and monotone to me. The only change to it were those few starting bars in part 4, where always three out of the six voices sang at the same time. I sometimes find it difficult to follow polyphonic compositions, because there isn’t one main voice that can be followed, I always end up concentrating on just one of the voices, which makes it difficult to analyse the others.

A score of the piece provided by Diana Thompson can be found under the following link: http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/images/9/95/Gibbons_Hosanna.pdf