Posts Tagged ‘ Thomas Tallis ’

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Salvator Mundi – Hilliard Ensemble.

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August 21, 2015

There are very many recordings of Tallis' setting of Salvator Mundi the antiphon for Matins on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross but one that I come back to time and time again is this taut and elegantly sung performance by the Hilliard Ensemble. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585)(attrib): Out from the deep

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August 3, 2015

Tallis 180 x 150Tallis was one of the composers who composed some of the earliest English anthems. Tallis is generally reckoned to have composed around forty but that's a more than somewhat misleading figure as quite a few of his English compositions are straightforward contrafacta of Latin compositions. There are also several anthems which are no believed to have been misattributed amongst which this setting of Psalm 130 Out from the deep (De Profundis) which may in fact be by William Parsons. Its text is from a metrical version of Psalm 130 and it's in the ABB format (i.e. two sections, the second of which is repeated) used by many Edwardian and early Elizabethan anthem composers. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Derelinquat impius

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June 19, 2015

Derelinquat impius (May the unrighteous) takes its text from Isaiah and was the fifth Respond at Matins on the First Sunday in Lent. Andrew Carwood describes it as "surprising and unsettling because of the peregrinations of the opening bars" with some "eyebrow-raising melodic moments".  But surely that was the entire point? Tallis rarely, very rarely, engaged in word-painting but surely if ever there was a text that justified him engaging in it then Isaiah 55–7 is that text. The melody is wayward it wanders, and each voice enters at a surprising note all of this depicting the sinner's inability to find his way and his need to revertatur ad Dominum (turn again to the Lord). Tallis varies the texture and introduces some "special effects" such as the leap upward at misericors to represent the heart's leap of joy at the prospect of God's mercy. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): O Salutaris hostia

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June 13, 2015

Photo: Winchester Cathedral Interior detail, Byzantine Style Icons on the western screen of the retro-choir.  Artist:  Sergei Fyodorof. Date: 1992-96.

Photo: Winchester Cathedral Interior detail, Byzantine Style Icons on the western screen of the retro-choir.
Artist: Sergei Fyodorof. Date: 1992-96.

The text to O salutaris hostia comes from the rite of Benediction, Tallis' setting is freely composed – it's completely original with no basis in the chant or other material. It's a bit unusual in that while its scoring (SATBarB) would lead you to suspect that it's pre-Reformation it's style is very definitely later than that it could date from either of the  reigns of Mary or Elizabeth I. It's a wonderful example of just how skilled Tallis was at taking short and very simple melodic elements and transforming them into substantial works of music. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Thomas Tallis (1505-1585): Lamentations of Jeremiah I & II

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April 2, 2015

Prophet Jeremiah, date circa 1125 AD. Location:  Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac

Prophet Jeremiah, date circa 1125 AD. Location: Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac

I've always thought of the two sets of Lamentations as Tallis' most personal music. The text is from that set for Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday) but Tallis plainly had no intention of setting them so that they could be used liturgically. He did something far more radical which is that he turned something which was part of a highly elaborated rite into a motet – into two motets in fact. Tallis' personal sympathies were plainly Catholic and the circles in which he moved were recusant. Times were hard for English Catholics and about to become harder, so Tallis' fellow Catholics would have greatly appreciated having the opportunity of performing these texts with the sharply reduced musical forces now available to them.

Musically they're things of great beauty. Tallis' intent was for them to be sung not consecutively as they're sung below but separated by the sung responsorium In monte Oliveti (which is why Tallis has set them in different modes). Each motet's various sections are delineated by Hebrew letters that Tallis has set almost as though they were consort music while the verses themselves are full of subtle musical effects to heighten the effect such as cumulative repetition and the almost antiphonal way in which Tallis sets off one voice against the rest. Whether you take them individually or together they're beautifully designed pieces of  musical architecture that are also profound spriritual and of whose purpose – a plea by Tallis, a Catholic in a Protestant country that his homeland return to the Catholic faith 'Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum' (Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God.) there can be no doubt.

markfromireland

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