Missa Si Bona Suscepimus

Christóbal Morales

edited:Lynne Gamblin

  Cat. 0076    
  Genre: Mass  
  Liturgical Use: First Sunday September  
  Vocal Disposition: SSATTB

  Price: £5.25  

In the mass Si Bona Suscepimus Morales borrows freely and inventively from the well-known motet of Verdelot (it exists in over twenty manuscript and printed sources). The opening text of the motet “If we have received good things from the hand of God, why should we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10) was clearly as important to Morales as the music. The woodcut illustration which appears in the print of the Mass shows the naked and wretched figure of Job, with the motto “The Lord gave and the Lord taketh away”. In addition to the motet material, the Credo also takes the plainchant Credo I as its cantus firmus, giving this movement a great coherence and strength, while also perhaps commenting on the importance of faith implied by the story of Job.


[1]           Christophori Morales Hyspalensis missarum liber primus, Rome 1544

[2]           Christophori Morales Hyspalensis missarum liber primus, Lyons 1545

[1] is treated as the primary source since it was edited by the composer. [2] offers further insights on word underlay.

The Edition

I have realised the vocal part designated Altus using the treble clef so as to make the edition more accessible to SATB groups. The alto and tenor voice ranges of the period were very similar with the alto extending upwards by one or two tones. Singers should consider how best to organise themselves to deal with what by modern standards is a low lying alto part.

As was often the case in mass settings of this period, there are only the sketchiest of indications as to how the syllables should be allocated to the notes. The singers of the day would have made their own decisions, being well trained and experienced in these matters. I have relied on the principles laid down by Zarlino, a leading 16th century theorist; his views on word setting would probably be drawn from current practice. I have also endeavoured to be equally pragmatic in my suggestions for musica ficta, indicated by accidentals placed over the notes concerned. Again, this is a skill which the singers would have exercised, and in fact rather jealously guarded, needing no “asses’ marks” for guidance, as one contemporary writer put it. Accidentals in round brackets are cautionary; there are also some indicated in square brackets which result in simultaneous false relations; from vihuela transcriptions of vocal works, where the accidentals are shown, we know that these did occur. Their use must remain a matter of taste for the modern performer.

From all of the above it can be seen that there can be no one ‘authentic’ version; contemporary performers would have produced differing results according to decisions taken among themselves.

The intonations were suggested by Bruno Turner and are from the Toledo Missal of 1550. The intonation of the Credo is the opening of Credo I which continues, paraphrased, in the tenor part throughout the movement. This paraphrase employs the mensural values commonly given to monophonic Credo chant melodies in the late 15th century, and still used in Morales’ time and beyond.

I am very grateful for the help and advice I received from the late Bernard Rose and from Bruno Turner.

Lynne Gamblin 21 November 2001

Editorial Procedures and Conventions

Clefs and signatures: The original clefs and signatures are indicated in the prefatory staves.
Note values and barring:
Note values have been halved. The final longae of each section are indicated with a pause sign.
Transposition: The pitch has been transposed up by a tone
Voice designations and ranges:
The editor’s voice designations are given after the prefatory staves. The ranges of each part are indicated at the pitch of the modern edition.
Accidentals given in the source are indicated within the stave. Suggested musica ficta accidentals are indicated above the stave. Where a suggested accidental results in a simultaneous false relation it is shown in square brackets. Cautionary accidentals are given in round brackets.
Text and Underlay: Text underlay is based upon that in the earlier source. Where given explicitly in the source text is given in normal typeface. Editorial text repetitions are shown in italics. Spelling and punctuation are modernised and made consistent without comment.

In the Kyrie it has sometimes been necessary to elide the words Kyrie and eleison. This is indicated in the textual underlay by the omission of the final “e” of Kyrie.

Click here to see low resolution versions of the first page:

Click here to hear a midi file of the opening of the SSAATB version