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Hyperion Records

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The Nativity (detail) by Gérard David (active 1484-1523)
Track(s) taken from CDA30024
Recording details: July 1989
Winchester Cathedral, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Antony Howell
Release date: February 1990
Total duration: 11 minutes 4 seconds

'Never before has Spem in alium, Tallis's great 40-part motet, so closely resembled The Last Judgement as it does in this vast and awesome performance' (Gramophone)

'A thrilling large scale performance' (CDReview)

'A magnificent sound' (Daily Mail)

Spem in alium
composer
author of text
Respond for Sunday matins, History of Judith, cf Judith 8: 19, 6: 15

Other recordings available for download
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips (conductor)
Magnificat, Philip Cave (conductor)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Thomas Tallis lived through some of the most stormy years of the sixteenth century. By the time of his death in 1585 he had been required to write music for Catholic rites under Henry VIII (1509–1547), for English vernacular services under Edward VI (1547–1553), for the reinstated Latin liturgy under Mary (1553–1558), and under Elizabeth I (1558–1603) both English and Latin works for her idiosyncratic approach to liturgical matters.

It was this very idiosyncracy which permitted musical experiment of a bold nature. Liturgical function in setting texts from the Catholic rite could be overlooked in the interests of through-composition, for example, or the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis for the reformed service of Evensong could actually be set in Latin. The renowned Spem in alium is a perfect example of the former technique, being liturgically a responsory from the Historia Iudith. The repeating structure of the responsory is entirely ignored, and no reference is made to its chant melody. What Tallis does is to use the text and make it into a through-composed motet, but a motet of an extraordinary kind. It is arguable that this piece in forty parts represents the epitome of choral writing in England in the sixteenth century (and not only the sixteenth): technically it is a balance between dense contrapuntal writing and homophonic declamation, exploiting every possible combination of effects available from the forty voice parts with dazzling virtuosity. It is, of course, also much more than that. It is, by turns, humble and proud, supplicatory and majestic, and always confident in its appeal to the Creator. The occasion for its composition has not been precisely identified. It may have been (among other possibilities) the fortieth birthday of either Queen Mary in 1556 or Queen Elizabeth in 1573; or possibly a piece to rival Alessandro Striggio’s own forty-part Ecce beatam lucem.

from notes by Ivan Moody © 1989


Other albums featuring this work
'Renaissance Giants' (CDGIM207)
Renaissance Giants
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'Tallis: Spem in alium' (CDGIM006)
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'Tallis: Spem in alium & other sacred music' (CKD233)
Tallis: Spem in alium & other sacred music
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'Tallis: The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis' (CDGIM203)
Tallis: The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis
MP3 £7.99FLAC £7.99ALAC £7.99Buy by post £11.75 CDGIM203  2CDs for the price of 1  
'Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1' (GIMBX301)
Sacred Music in the Renaissance, Vol. 1
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