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Tallis, Thomas: Latin Church Music I

Ref: EC64 ISBN: 9780852499689 ISMN: 9790220227998 Categories: , , By:


Mass Salve intemerata & Antiphons
Contrafactum Se lord and behold
Transcribed and edited by David Skinner.

1. Ave dei patris filia
2. Ave rosa sine spinis
3. Gaude gloriosa dei mater
4. Salve intemerata
5. Mass Salve intemerata
6. Se lord and behold

Individual titles from this volume are available as Adobe PDF files…

First published in 2022
Pages: 192
Format: Hardback
Dimensions (mm): 324 x 248 x 22
Weight (Kg): 1.257

Though by no means previously neglected in the EECM series, the music of Thomas Tallis here receives its first single-composer collection since the English church music appeared in a two-volume edition in 1971. Moreover, EECM 64 with a forthcoming companion volume will be only the first comprehensive collection of the composer’s Latin works to have been issued since the landmark sixth volume of Tudor Church Music of 1928. 

Thanks to the twentieth-century Tallis revival, much has been added to our knowledge of the composer’s life and works, not least concerning the six pieces included in the contents, all of which are either demonstrably Henrician because found in Henrician sources, or which may plausibly be dated to before 1547. The pioneering studies of E. H. Fellowes, and research of later distinguished scholars, have made possible the restoration of the early five-part votive antiphons Ave dei patris filia and Ave rosa sine spinis, which previously were frustratingly defective on account of missing sections or incomplete parts. In the case of Tallis’s only surviving pre-Reformation Mass, the Mass Salve intemerata, the missing Tenor part can be reconstructed from the parent antiphon, fortunately extant in several versions. In addition, the identification of the influential churchman Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London from 1522 to 1530, as the author of the votive antiphon’s sophisticated literary text sheds light on the extent of the composer’s influential connections in this period. 

Of particular significance for the present volume was the remarkable discovery in 1978, during renovations at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, of fragments of the previously unknown Se lord and behold. Identified as a setting of words by Henry VIII’s last wife, Queen Katherine Parr, it is a contrafact of Tallis’s grandest votive antiphon, Gaude gloriosa dei mater, indisputably among his finest creations, but previously dated to the short-lived return of Catholicism under Queen Mary. 

Published in David Skinner’s reconstruction for the first time, and with contrafact and antiphon also presented in parallel score, Se lord and behold was written in 1544, most likely by the composer himself, and contemporary with his first liturgical setting in English, of Cranmer’s Litany.  Both devotional works may have been part of war-related preparations for the king’s presence at the battle of Boulogne that summer. In view of this conclusion, and based on internal evidence of revisions within the contrafact suggesting a version of the antiphon earlier than that surviving in Elizabethan sources, the dating of a pre-existing lost original to the early 1540s is possible, and specifically to the period following Tallis’s appointment in 1541 as ‘singing-man’ at the Cathedral of New Foundation at Canterbury. Here, in the north wing of the west transept, where the archbishop was murdered in 1170, the ancient ‘Gaude’ window was an increasingly prominent focus of Marian devotion following the abolition of prayers to Saint Thomas Becket; and it is reasonable to speculate that some dedicatory purpose related to it might have been Tallis’s inspiration for the first version of Gaude gloriosa dei mater.

On BBC Breakfast in 2017 David Skinner discussed the story of the finding of the manuscript of the second Contratenor part of Se lord and behold during renovations to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Watch the interview here:

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