Listening to Tallis
is, for me, like coming home or entering
a sanctuary. Many excellent discs offer
a good range of this glorious, uplifting
music. Hyperion has now added another
to the collection, with Andrew Carwood
directing the outstanding Cardinal’s
Tallis lived during
a time of tremendous religious upheaval.
The succession from Henry VIII to Edward
VI, Edward to Mary Tudor and Mary to
Elizabeth meant changes from Catholic
to Protestant, and back again with Mary,
before Elizabeth’s "third way"
– a more accepting and moderate form
of Protestantism. Tallis lived through
all of this and, remarkably enough,
managed to please each monarch in turn.
Although very difficult to date accurately,
the pieces on this disc are thought
to cover the range from later on in
Henry VIII’s reign (the Magnificat
and Nunc Dimittis) to
Elizabeth (Derelinquat impius).
A number of the works
featured here have been taken from the
1575 Cantiones Sacrae
– a volume of Latin motets published
by jointly by Tallis and Byrd and containing
seventeen pieces by each composer. It
is suggested that the total number of
34 pieces was to recognize the number
of years that Elizabeth had ruled.
The disc opens with
the beautiful Jesu salvator saeculi,
a hymn for use at Compline, which is
followed by Gaude gloriosa,
the most substantial work on the disc
- a 6-voice votive antiphon. This hymn
to the Virgin Mary is probably a later
work recalling an earlier style as used
by composers such as Fayrfax and Ludford.
It is a highly accomplished and concise
work despite its rather rambling text.
It is very well structured and assured,
and Carwood teases out the beautiful
A hymn for use at Lauds
follows - Sermone blando angelus,
before a 5-part Magnificat and
Nunc Dimittis, which typically
alternate chant and polyphony but lack
a cantus firmus. The peaceful Mihi
autem nimis sets the antiphon of
the introit for the Feast of the Apostles,
and is followed by the striking Absterge
domine. Derelinquat impius
is thought to be one of Tallis’s last
compositions on account of its unusual
and innovative chord progressions and
harmonies and is indeed a wonderful
and exciting work. The motet for Pentecost,
Loquebantur variis linguis ensues,
a polyphonic responsory with the cantus
firmus in the tenor part while the other
6 parts intertwine around it.
The 7-voice Suscipe
quaeso domine is an interesting
piece in its highly personal and intense
response to the text. It is speculated
that the text could have been written
for, and the piece performed at, the
ceremony when the Archbishop of Canterbury
under Mary, Cardinal Pole, absolved
England from her division.
The disc concludes
with the brief but gorgeous motet O
nata lux, which takes two verses
from the hymn at Lauds on the Feast
The Cardinall’s Musick
– a group specialising in music of the
English Renaissance – excel themselves
here. The singing is radiant, warm and
luminous with the individual winding
strands of voices clear and concise.
I heartily recommend this disc.