This week's Sunday Concert is from the Dutch Public Broadcasting Organisation AVRO's series of live public concerts. The concert was givenn in the Great Hall of the Doelen in Rotterdam on February 27, 2013 and featured music by Carver, Ramsey, and Tallis. As you might expect from The Sixteen it's a very polished performance, the concert concludes with a performance of Tallis' renowned motet for forty voices 'Spem in alium'. The video and concert programme are both below the fold. Enjoy :-)-
Sermone blando angelus is a hymn that under the Sarum rite usage which prevailed in England until Henry VIII abolished it would have been sung in English churches and monasteries during Lauds between Low Sunday (the first Sunday after Easter Sunday) and the Feast of the Ascension. Tallis intended his setting of the hymn to augment the liturgy without distracting from it. I think that you'll agree as you listen that he achieved his goal. It's a modest and unassuming piece – like all Tallis' hymns, but that's not to say that it's musically uninteresting.
Tallis' setting is syllabic and homophonic alternating the chant with his own composition and retaining the cantus firmus for the top part. He also swapped contratenor and tenor parts for the even numbered verses. The result is a simple but very pleasing and effective piece of music that starts as a narrative of the events following the resurrection and which ends with a plea to the risen Christ that he ' take possession of our hearts'. It's sung below by The Cardinall's Musick conducted by Andrew Carwood. Enjoy :-).
Tallis' ethereally beautiful Miserere is relatively rarely heard which is a great pity as it's a remarkable piece of music that shows Tallis' mastery of complex counterpoint. It's written for seven voices and contains not one but two canons the first of these – the one between the two top voices is pretty obvious but the second is both far more elaborate canon and less obvious. It's between four voices with the discantus being sung by the contratenor in double augmentation (double augmentation is the where the notes are four times as long), the first bassus part is sung in triple augmentation (in other words the notes are eight times as long) and bassus ii in simple or plain augmentation (the notes are twice as long). The result is an amazing amount of musical beauty packed into just over two and a half minutes . You'll find it, its text, and a translation to English below. Enjoy :-).
For today's posting I've picked the Brabant Ensemble's performance of Tallis' Easter anthem 'Christ Rising Again' from the Chirk Castle part-books. The castle is on the Welsh border and was bought by the Myddleton family in 1595 its chapel was in disrepair and 1630 Sir Thomas Myddleton junior rebuilt the chapel and instituted choral services. The part-books date from this period and the would have been performed until the defeat of the Royalists in the English civil war and the religious reforms instituted by the parliament and protectorate. Tallis' setting of Christ rising again is very well-known, his text from Romans and Corinthians has been prescribed to be read at Easter Mattins in English churches ever since Cranmer’s first Prayer Book of 1549. If you're used to the words of the King James version (which were inserted into the Book of Common Prayer in 1662) then you may find the text a little unfamiliar. That's because the text Tallis set is the translation prescribed in 1549 under Edward VI and then again in 1559 under Elizabeth I.
Tallis wrote two sets of Lamentations and they are perhaps his most personal music. Although the the text is from the Maundy Thursday set, it's very unlikely that Tallis' Lamentations were ever used liturgically – or that he intended them to be. The Lamentations consist of two motets broken into sections wiith the start of each section being delineated by the use of ritual Hebrew letters between the Latin text. Tallis' skill, is to be seen in every detail of The Lamentations, the subtle way in which he uses repetition, the antiphony between one voices and the others. Harmonically The Lamentations are very rich and very fluid but they're also very carefully crafted to that by the time we come to the concluding line of 'Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum' ('Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God')—there is no doubt of the message Tallis is conveying. The video below is of the clerks of the Choir of New College, Oxford, performing the first of these motets during their April 2010 USA tour at St. Thomas' Fifth Avenue under the Direction of Edward Higginbottom. I've rarely heard it sung better. Enjoy :-)