Feature: Christopher Tye (±1505 – 1573) Missa Sine Nomine

Tye seems to have composed a fair amount of Latin religious music before Feb 20th 1547 when Edward Tudor was crowned Edward VI of King of England and Tye in common with every other composer who wanted to keep life and limb intact switched to composing in English. This setting of the Mass is Henrician and as its source is the Peterhouse Partbooks it must date from sometime before 1540. It’s a five-part Mass which, like much of Tye’s surviving music is missing some of its parts in this case the tenor which was reconstructed by David Skinner for this recording. It’s interesting that even in the 1530s under the doctrinally very conservative Henry VII that Tye felt he could get away with writing what, for its time, is a startlingly modern indeed reformist piece of music. Very daring indeed for the 1530s. For the most part it’s in duple time with some tripla writing interpolated the writing is imitative and flexible with some homophony and antiphony all being used to accentuate the text. I also find it more than somewhat interesting that it’s a Missa Sine Nomine, a musical setting of the Ordinary of the Mass that uses no pre-existing musical source material, and that Tye composed such a  Mass at a time when:

  1. Most Masses were based upon a  pre-existing piece of music.


  2. Henry VIII, who was very conservative both theologically and ritually, was on the throne.

The fact that it’s survived nearly intact when so much of his music is lost, the fact that he dared compose it all, and last but not least its music combine to make this seldom-performed Renaissance gem quite remarkable. Enjoy :-).


Christopher Tye (±1505 – 1573): Missa Sine Nomine

Performers: Hilliard Ensemble

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