Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Suscipe quaeso Domine – Si enim iniquitates

This is some of Tallis’ finest music and one around which there is a certain amount of disagreement and speculation amongst musicologists. It’s a massive work scored for seven voices and given the passion of the music was clearly of significance to Tallis. The text is by the sixth century Spanish saint Isidore of Seville and is highly penitential in nature which together with the size of the choral forces involved suggests that it must have been composed for a major public occasion. Just such an occasion took place in 1554 when Cardinal Pole who had been appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Queen Mary I absolved England from schism in November 1554 bringing the country back into the Catholic fold. If that is the case then Tallis’ Catholic sympathies account for the deeply personal relationship of the music to the text – there are some suggestions that Suscipe quaeso Domine was written to accompany the 7-part Missa Puer natus est nobis which would tend to confirm its date as being  from around 1554. But when I think of this piece I pair it not with that Mass but with Byrd’s equally intense and personal Infelix Ego. Enjoy :-).

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Suscipe quaeso Domine – Si enim iniquitates

Suscipe quaeso Domine, vocem confitentis.
Scelera mea non defendo; peccavi.
Deus miserere mei; peccavi.
Dele culpas meas gratia tua.

I ask you to listen, Lord, to the voice of one who confesses.
My wickedness I do not defend; I have sinned.
God have mercy on me; I have sinned.
Do away with my crimes by your grace.

Si enim iniquitates recordaberis, quis sustineat?
Quis enim iustus qui se dicere audeat sine peccato esse?
Nullus est enim mundus in conspectu tuo.

For if you were to recall iniquities, who could bear it?
For what just man would dare to say he was without sin?
For there is no one who is clean in your sight.

Performers: Magnificat directed by Philip Cave

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