Of the few surviving works of Manuel Mendes, this setting of the antiphon Asperges me stands out among his other works mostly because of the number of voices used, although the catalogue of King João IV’s musical library indicates the presence of motets by Mendes using textures of five, six and eight voices. This setting is scored, as above mentioned, for eight voices (SSAATTBB), not using double-choir writing.
An indication in the manuscript source states that some of the voices were added by Soares. There is no reference to which voices in particular were added but it is known that the original work was set for five voices being three added by this “Soares” sometime during the eighteenth century probably to “modernize” the score. The work follows the traditional setting of the antiphon with a paraphrase of the chant in all voices. In the psalm section it is taken by top voice as a cantus firmus. The antiphon ends with the doxology, not a common practice in the liturgy of Palm Sunday where it is stated in the manusript source to be used.
The recording presented here is by Spanish group Capella Iberica, directed by Manuel Torrado. It was recorded live in a 2014 concert in the castle of Manzanares. It is interesting to note that one of the two bassus part is played by a bajón a common practice of the period to have wind instruments doubling or substituting a vocal part.