Tallis’ setting of the Benedictus
, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel’, is a stand-alone setting of the text instructed to be sung at the Morning Office of Mattins in Cranmer’s new Prayer Book. It is scored for lower voices and is a wonderful example of how Tallis can take a very restricted style of writing, one which is essentially quite plain, and turn out a minor masterpiece. The use of divided tenors and basses gives a warm sonority and there is a judicious amount of imitation at the beginning of some sections contrasted with greater textual clarity through homophonic writing at the start of others. Tallis allows himself a little textual repetition at the very end (the words ‘and ever shall be’, before the final ‘Amen’) but otherwise adheres to Cranmer’s advice over text-setting. William Byrd, Tallis’ pupil and friend, thought highly enough of this piece to re-use the melody of ‘which hath been since the world began’ in his Great Service
some decades later.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2014