Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Solemnis urgebat dies Iam Christus astra ascenderat

Towards the end of Henry VIII’s reign, composers led by Taverner and Redford started producing choral settings of Office responsories and hymns their lead was followed by the younger generation of composers in particular Tallis and Sheppard from whom we have seven and seventeen hymns respectively. The idea was that these settings of Office responsories and hymns would replace that pillar of the old order the votive antiphon. From this we know that Tallis’  setting of the Office Hymn at Matins on the Feast of Pentecost Solemnis urgebat dies (Iam Christus astra ascenderat) must date from sometime around his appointment to the Royal Household even if we cannot give the exact year of its composition. Like all his hymns it’s based upon chant taking the chant’s melody for the odd verses setting them against polyphony for the even ones. This somewhat formulaic approach contains considerable musical craftsmanship, Tallis treats the chant canonically in the treble and contratenor voices in the first verses while in the third he lets the chant float over an increasingly tight imitative texture while throughout there’s a sense of forward momentum provided by the contrast between the lower voices and the top. Enjoy :-).

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Solemnis urgebat dies Iam Christus astra ascenderat

Iam Christus astra ascenderat,
Regressus unde venerat,
Promisso Patris munere
Sanctum daturus Spiritum.
Now Christ had ascended to the stars,
returning whence he came,
having promised the Father’s gift
that he would grant them the Holy Spirit.
Solemnis urgebat dies
Quo mystico septemplici
Orbis volutus septies
Signat beata tempora.
The solemn day was approaching
which by the mystical sevenfold
rotation of the world
marked the blessed times.
Dum hora cunctis tertia
Repente mundus intonat,
Orantibus apostolis,
Deum venisse nuntiat.
During the third hour
suddenly the world resounds,
and, as the apostles pray,
announces the coming of God.
De Patris ergo lumine
Decorus ignis almus est,
Quo fida Christi pectora
Calore verbi compleat.
Therefore from the light of the Father
comes a beautiful and loving fire,
which infuses the hearts faithful to Christ
with the warmth of his words.
Dudum sacrata pectora
Tua replesti gratia,
Dimitte nunc peccamina
Et da quieta tempora.
These recently consecrated hearts
you replenished with your grace,
forgive now our sins
and give us peaceful times.
Sit laus Patri cum Filio,
Sancto simul Paraclito,
Nobisque mittat Filius
Carisma Sancti Spiritus. Amen.
Praise be to the Father with the Son,
together with the Holy Paraclete,
and may the Son send to us
the grace of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Office Hymn at Matins on the Feast of Pentecost

Performers:
The Cardinall’s Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood.

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