Feature: Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Gaude gloriosa

Mary I Queen of England (Newburgh Prioryc)150x150 CaptionedThis is a monumental piece of work conceived on a grand scale in which Tallis brings to bear all his skill and all his experience to do honour to the Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and at the same time to pay a compliment to Queen Mary I of England who was attempting to reunite the deeply Catholic world of her childhood with the partially reformed England she had inherited following the death of her brother Edward VI. In saying ‘all his experience’ I am placing myself on the side of those who consider this to be a relatively late work rather than a work of Tallis’ youth. I have several reasons to believe that Gaude gloriosa or Gaude gloriosa Dei mater (Rejoice, glorious mother of God) to give it its full title is a relatively late work :

  • The first is its text which is deeply Catholic. It’s too deeply Catholic  a text for any composer who wanted to remain in favour with the court to have considered setting during the latter part of Henry VIII’s reign. The opposite of course was true during Mary’s reign when a nine verse text in honour of the Virgin Mary each verse of which starts with the word ‘Gaude’ (Rejoice) would have been very much in tune with the restored Catholic order.
  • Then there’s the music, it’s similar in some ways to the music of the earlier generation such as Fayrfax, Ludford and Taverner there’s not much in the way of imitation and what there is tends be to both brief and modest in scope. Like the grandiloquent music of his predecessors Tallis’ Gaude gloriosa’s effect comes not only from its length (461 bars) but also from the breadth of its vocal range, and by its juxtapositioning of reduced forces sections with sections for full choir to provide contrast and further musical interest. All of these are entirely typical of pre-Reformation music. However the differences are such as to outweigh the similarities not the least of which is that the tuttis are the pillars supporting Tallis’ musical structure.
  • The motet’s style and maturity is a further reason for believing it to be a relatively late work it’s scored for six voices and the sections for solo voices are clearly the confident work of a mature composer who has mastered his craft. You can this confidence in how he treats the treble and alto gimmells (the voices split into two parts). Finally there are no duets – which would have been inconceivable in pieces composed before Mary’s reign.

For all of these reasons I believe it to a work dating from Mary’s reign rather than that of her father but I do understand why people might at first hearing consider it to be from the Henrician period it’s a very nostalgic piece of music it’s almost as if Tallis is remembering and mourning the musical world banished by Edward VI and paying it tribute. It’s sung below by the Chapelle du Roi conducted by Alistair Dixon enjoy :-)-


Text & Translation: Gaude gloriosa

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Latin English
Gaude gloriosa Dei mater,
virgo Maria vere honorificanda,
quae a Domino in gloria super caelos exaltata,
adepta es thronum.
Rejoice, glorious mother of God,
virgin, Mary, truly to be honoured,
who is raised up in glory by the Lord above the heavens,
you are worthy of the throne.
Gaude virgo Maria, cui angelicae turmae
dulces in caelis resonant laudes:
iam enim laetaris visione regis cui omnia serviunt.
Rejoice, virgin Mary, to whom the angel hosts
sing out sweet praises in the heavens:
for now you rejoice to see the king whom all serve.
Gaude concivis in caelis sanctorum,
quae Christum in utero illaesa portasti:
igitur Dei mater digne appellaris.
Rejoice, you who dwell in the heavens of the saints, you who untainted carried the Christ in your womb: accordingly you are fit to be called the mother of God.
Gaude flos florum, speciosissima, virga iuris,
forma morum, fessi cura, pes labentis,
mundi lux, et peccatorum refugium.
Rejoice, flower of flowers, most beautiful, pillar of the law, model of virtue, succour for the weary, foothold for the unsteady,
light of the world, and sanctuary for sinners.
Gaude virgo Maria, quam dignam laude celebrat ecclesia,
quae Christi doctrinis illustrata, te matrem glorificat.
Rejoice, virgin Mary, rightly praised by the church
which, enlightened by Christ’s teachings, glorifies you as mother.
Gaude virgo Maria, quae corpore et anima
ad summum provecta es palacium:
et, ut auxiliatrix et interventrix
pro nobis miserrimis peccatoribus, supplicamus.
Rejoice, virgin Mary, who in body and soul
is transported to the highest palace:
and, to be helper and intercessor
for us miserable sinners, we pray you.
Gaude Maria, intercessorum adiutrix
et damnandorum salvatrix celebranda.
Rejoice, Mary, helper of those who pray
and famed saviour of the damned.
Gaude sancta virgo Maria, cuius prole
omnes salvamur a perpetuis inferorum suppliciis
et a potestate diabolica liberati
Rejoice, holy virgin Mary, through whose son
we all shall be saved from the perpetual punishments of hell
and freed from devilish power.
Gaude virgo Maria, Christi benedicta mater,
vena misericordiae et gratiae:
cui supplicamus ut nobis pie clamantibus attendas,
itaque tuo in nomine mereamur
adesse caelorum regnum. Amen.
Rejoice, virgin Mary, blessed mother of the Christ,
channel of mercy and grace:
to whom we pray that you might attend to our dutiful cries,
that in your name we might deserve
to enter the kingdom of the heavens. Amen.

2 thoughts on “Feature: Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Gaude gloriosa

  1. This is so glorious/gloriosa that I have listened to it several times. Can you recommend other recordings by Chapelle du Roi?

    • Greetings

      I can recommend pretty much all of their recordings with an important caveat. For their recordings of Tallis go for their boxed set of his complete works rather than any of the separates. You get the whole thing plus a cd with the texts and notes for a very good price that way. Other than their Tallis recordings I like their recording of Guerrero’s Music for Vespers & Missa Pro Defunctis of 1566 and their cd ‘MUSIC FOR CHARLES V’ has some very nice singing indeed on it.

      Hope this helps


      PS: Get the cheaper of the box sets if you decide to buy it. It’s exactly the same recordings and there’s no point in paying for packaging-

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