One of the most difficult tasks facing the Tallis scholar is any attempt to impose chronological order on the composer’s output. The five-part Latin Magnificat
and Nunc dimittis
are especially problematic. They survive in a unique Elizabethan source but their style and form point to an earlier date of composition. Tallis adopts the usual practice of alternating chant with polyphony in the pre-Reformation style but there is no use of cantus firmus nor faburden. Furthermore the old-style melismas are not in evidence and there is a much greater use of syllabic writing, nor are there any sections for soloists or reduced forces as one might expect. Here also is a rather less euphonious Tallis at work than can be seen in the pieces more securely attributed to the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth. So the evidence seems to point to a compositional date late in Henry VIII’s reign.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2005