Hyperion Records

Tallis, Thomas (c1505-1585)  

Thomas Tallis

born: c1505
died: 23 November 1585
country: United Kingdom

Thomas Tallis (c1505–1585) lived and worked through the reigns of four radically different and difficult monarchs, all of whom forced their own religious beliefs on an increasingly confused and divided country. Their various attitudes to the religious questions of the day meant that each required different liturgies and different music to adorn them. Henry VIII (1509–1547) inherited and encouraged a tradition of grand, lengthy music, with soaring lines which amplified, extended and enhanced the text to be sung. Yet, as he began the process of the English Reformation, and as composers became influenced by the more succinct style of their colleagues on the Continent, this style had to change. Pieces became shorter and more syllabic—a process encouraged by Archbishop Cranmer who believed that each syllable should have no more than one note. Under the boy-king Edward VI (1547–1553) and his Protestant advisors music was even more restricted, with the once famous high treble part (commented upon by Erasmus) removed and Latin texts abandoned. For Mary (1553–1558), determined to restore Catholicism to England, composers returned to the Latin language and wrote more substantial pieces, dividing the voices so as to produce pieces in six or seven parts rather than the more severe four-part writing of the Edwardine years. For the astute Elizabeth (1558–1603), the style changed yet again: Latin could still be used but the length of pieces again became more modest. The fact that Tallis produced excellent music in all of these styles is a tribute to his talent, to his patience and to his diplomatic skill, or at least to his devotion to his employers.

We cannot be sure of his date of birth—no records have yet come to light—but so complete is his understanding of the pre-Reformation style that he must have been born in time fully to experience and assimilate it. He produced Votive Antiphons, at least one Mass and a Magnificat setting which would not have been acceptable to Edward VI and would not have been à la mode for Queen Mary. Only Henry’s more Catholic regime would have required such pieces. The ‘best guess’ therefore is that Tallis was born around 1505, so that by the time we first hear of him as the organist of the very modest Benedictine Priory of Dover in 1532, he was about twenty-seven, old enough to compose with confidence and producing music for a rite which did not begin to change substantially until the mid-1530s. By 1537 he had come to London and found employment at the church of St Mary-at-Hill in Billingsgate, but in 1538 he moved again, this time to the Augustinian Abbey at Waltham in Essex. This proved to be something of a mistake. Henry’s systematic suppression of the monasteries began in earnest in 1536 (Dover Priory was an even earlier casualty in 1535) and ended in 1540 when Waltham Abbey was the last to be dissolved. Tallis found himself with neither job nor pension but quickly re-surfaced singing in the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, once a Benedictine institution but recently re-founded as a secular Cathedral. In 1544, Tallis’ name is found on the lay subsidy roll for the sovereign’s private chapel, the Chapel Royal, and he must have returned to London sometime after 1542.

Tallis married his wife, Joan, in or around 1552 and in 1557 was granted a twenty-one-year joint lease on a manor in Minster near Thanet in Kent by Queen Mary. In 1572 Tallis and his younger colleague William Byrd (1539/40–1623) petitioned Queen Elizabeth I for financial assistance and she responded by granting them a twenty-one-year monopoly on the printing and publishing of music. The Cantiones sacrae of 1575 was their only foray into the commercial world of publishing. Today it is appreciated as a fine collection of motets but at the time it quickly proved a financial disaster and led to a further petition for funds from the Queen in 1577. Tallis’ connection with the Chapel Royal remained throughout his life and he undoubtedly would have filled a variety of roles as composer, teacher, organist and singer. He died around 20 November 1585 and was buried in the Church of St Alphege in Greenwich.

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2013

'Tallis: Gaude gloriosa & other sacred music' (CDA67548)
Tallis: Gaude gloriosa & other sacred music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67548 
'Tallis: Missa Puer natus est nobis & other sacred music' (CDA68026)
Tallis: Missa Puer natus est nobis & other sacred music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA68026  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Tallis: Missa Salve intemerata' (CDH55400)
Tallis: Missa Salve intemerata
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55400  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'Tallis: Salve intemerata & other sacred music' (CDA67994)
Tallis: Salve intemerata & other sacred music
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67994  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Tallis: Spem in alium & other choral works' (CDA30024)
Tallis: Spem in alium & other choral works
Buy by post £8.50 CDA30024  Hyperion 30th Anniversary series  
'Christmas Music from Medieval and Renaissance Europe' (CDA66263)
Christmas Music from Medieval and Renaissance Europe
Buy by post £10.50 CDA66263 
'Christmas Vespers at Westminster Cathedral' (CDA67522)
Christmas Vespers at Westminster Cathedral
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67522 
'Exultate Deo' (CDA66850)
Exultate Deo
Buy by post £10.50 CDA66850 
'Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey' (CDA67704)
Mary and Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey
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'Miserere' (CDA67938)
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67938  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Music from the Chirk Castle Part-Books' (CDA67695)
Music from the Chirk Castle Part-Books
Buy by post £10.50 CDA67695 
'Remembrance' (CDA67398)
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'Sacred & Secular Music' (CDH55148)
Sacred & Secular Music
Buy by post £5.50 CDH55148  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
'The Coronation of King George II' (CDA67286)
The Coronation of King George II
Buy by post £27.98 (ARCHIVE SERVICE) CDA67286  2CDs for the price of 1 — Archive Service  
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1' (HYP12)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 1
HYP12  Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
'The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2' (HYP20)
The Essential Hyperion, Vol. 2
HYP20  2CDs Super-budget price sampler — Deleted  
'Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2014' (HYP201403)
Hyperion monthly sampler – March 2014
HYP201403  Download-only monthly sampler  
On other labels
'Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah' (CDGIM025)
Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM025 
'Tallis: Spem in alium' (CDGIM006)
Tallis: Spem in alium
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM006 
'Tallis: Spem in alium & other sacred music' (CKD233)
Tallis: Spem in alium & other sacred music
CKD233  Download only  
'Tallis: The Complete English Anthems' (CDGIM007)
Tallis: The Complete English Anthems
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM007 
'Tallis: The Tallis Christmas Mass' (CDGIM034)
Tallis: The Tallis Christmas Mass
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM034  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'Tallis: The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis' (CDGIM203)
Tallis: The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM203  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Christmas with The Tallis Scholars' (CDGIM202)
Christmas with The Tallis Scholars
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM202  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Lamenta' (CDGIM996)
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM996 
'Renaissance Giants' (CDGIM207)
Renaissance Giants
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM207  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Renaissance Radio' (CDGIM212)
Renaissance Radio
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM212  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1' (GIMBX301)
Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1
GIMBX301  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price) — Download only  
'Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 2' (GIMBX302)
Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 2
Buy by post £17.50 GIMBX302  4CDs Boxed set (at a special price)  
'The Essential Tallis Scholars' (CDGIM201)
The Essential Tallis Scholars
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM201  2CDs for the price of 1  
'The Tallis Scholars Live in Oxford' (CDGIM998)
The Tallis Scholars Live in Oxford
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM998  Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
'The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Church Music, Vol. 2' (CDGIM210)
The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Church Music, Vol. 2
Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM210  2CDs for the price of 1  
'The Tudors at Prayer' (CKD447)
The Tudors at Prayer
CKD447  Download only  
Alphabetical listing of all musical works
9 Psalm Tunes (Tallis)
A new commandment (Tallis)
Absterge Domine (Tallis)
Alleluia. Ora pro nobis (Tallis)
Audivi vocem de caelo (Tallis)
Ave rosa sine spinis (Tallis)
Ave, Dei patris filia (Tallis)
Benedictus (Tallis)
Blessed are those that be undefiled (Tallis)
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel  First line to Benedictus (Tallis)
Christ rising again (Tallis)
Derelinquat impius (Tallis)
Domine, quis habitabit? (Tallis)
Fantasy in A minor (Tallis)
Gaude gloriosa (Tallis)
Hear the voice and prayer (Tallis)
I call and cry to thee (Tallis)
If ye love me (Tallis)
In ieiunio et fletu (Tallis)
In manus tuas, Domine (Tallis)
Jesu salvator saeculi (Tallis)
Let God arise  No 2 of 9 Psalm Tunes (Tallis)
Loquebantur variis linguis (Tallis)
Magnificat a 4 (Tallis)
Magnificat a 5 (Tallis)
Man blest no doubt  No 1 of 9 Psalm Tunes (Tallis)
Mass for four voices (Tallis)
Mihi autem nimis (Tallis)
Miserere nostri (Tallis)
Missa Puer natus est nobis (Tallis)
Missa Salve intemerata (Tallis)
Not every one that saith unto me (Tallis)
Nunc dimittis a 5 (Tallis)
O come in one to praise the Lord  No 4 of 9 Psalm Tunes (Tallis)
O God, the Father of Heaven (Tallis)
O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit (Tallis)
O Lord, in thee is all my trust (Tallis)
O nata lux de lumine (Tallis)
O sacrum convivium (Tallis)
O salutaris hostia (Tallis)
Out from the deep (Tallis)
Purge me, O Lord (Tallis)
Quod chorus vatum (Tallis)
Remember not, O Lord God (Tallis)
Salvator mundi I (Tallis)
Salvator mundi II (Tallis)
Salvator mundi, Domine (Tallis)
Salve intemerata virgo (Tallis)
Sancte Deus (Tallis)
Sermone blando angelus (Tallis)
Spem in alium (Tallis)
Suscipe quaeso Domine (Tallis)
Te lucis ante terminum I (Tallis)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah I (Tallis)
The Lamentations of Jeremiah II (Tallis)
Verily, verily I say unto you (Tallis)
Videte miraculum (Tallis)
Why fum'th in fight  No 3 of 9 Psalm Tunes (Tallis)
With all our hearts and mouths (Tallis)
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