Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Nunc dimittis a 5

This five-part (SAT[Bar]B) Latin-texted setting of the Song of Simeon is found only in the Baldwin partbooks. The fact that it’s in Latin presents problems for musical historians with tidy minds because, being in Latin, he surely wouldn’t have composed it during Edward VI’s sternly protestant reign when composers with Catholic sympathies were keeping their…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): Adolescentulus sum ego

This six-part through-composed votive antiphon sets Psalm 118:141-142 in the Vulgate1 . It’s a bit scaled down but still very substantial in terms of its structure and its musical texture which consists of very tightly woven imitative polyphony gets ever richer as the motet progresses. It’s more proof, if proof were needed, that Mundy was…

Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Come, Holy Ghost

You may have heard Tallis’ English language setting of Veni Creator referred to as "Tallis’ Ordinal" it’s to be found in the whole Psalter translated into English metre published in 1567 by the Elizabethan music printer John Day. That psalter contained inter alia metrical translations of psalms by Matthew Parker, the first Anglican Archbishop of…

Robert White (±1538-1574): Domine, quis habitabit (III)

Mid-sixteenth century English composers were great admirers of Josquin and sought to emulate him. His psalm motets were particularly admired and pretty much everyone tried their hand at least once, White was no exception this is his setting of Psalm 14 – you might find it interesting to contrast it with Byrd’s setting about  which…

Feature: Thomas Tallis (±1505-1585): Sancte Deus

In early Tudor England composers produced four main types of church music: Masses, Magnificats, Votive antiphons Smaller liturgical pieces From this we know that Tallis would have composed this votive antiphon for four voices (SATB) during Henry VIII’s reign but before the Reformation. It must have been fairly popular because it was set both by…

John Sheppard (±1515-1558): Haec dies quam fecit Dominus

Sheppard’s best work is for the Latin liturgy written during the five years of Queen Mary I’s reign and her attempt to roll back the protestant reforms of Henry VII and Edward VI. He seems to have made something of a specialism of plainsong-based settings  of  Responds, Gradualia  and Hymns, Haec dies quam fecit Dominus…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): Adhaesit pavimento

William Mundy’s six-part (SSATBB) psalm motet Adhaesit pavimento sets verses from psalm 119 (118 in the Vulgate) gets its name from verse twenty five Adhaesit pavimento anima mea (My soul has cleaved to the dust) which is its first line. English composers of Mundy’s generation were well aware of Josquin’s psalm settings and sought to…

William Mundy (±1529-1591): Evening Canticles

Mundy is one of those Tudor composers about whom we know almost nothing. His career spanned the entirety of the English reformation, the Henrician overthrow of the Catholic church, the Edwardian intensification of reform, the Marian reaction, and Elizabeth II’s re-entrenchment of the Anglican church, Mundy saw them all. His contemporaries thought very well of…

Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521): Most clere of colour

When we think of English renaissance sung music we tend to think in terms of the large-scale polyphonic music written for cathedrals, colleges, and the Chapel Royal. Certainly this music is worthy of our fullest attention but it would be a mistake to ignore the chamber-song repertory of the time. Much of it is both…