The Reformation movement throughout Europe was not a sudden event, nor was it confined to political and ecclesiastical legislation. Discussions had been taking place hand-in-hand with the rise of humanism for some years before Henry set to work in earnest, and some liturgical and musical experiments can be seen during his reign. Tallis’ Mass for four voices is an interesting example of this process. The Mass is in Latin, but compared with earlier settings of the Ordinary (Nicholas Ludford’s Missa Videte miraculum
, for example) the style is radically different. The composition is shorter in length and the Gloria and Credo are rigorously syllabic throughout. Gone are the meandering melismas and the clarity of the text is now paramount. Only in the Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei does Tallis allow himself a little more freedom. Gone also is the high treble voice which had been such a feature of music in the previous generation. Tallis does use a head-motif (with variations), but a new and unusual feature is the repetition of several sections from the Gloria in other movements: the music for ‘Deus Pater omnipotens’ reappears in the second Agnus Dei; ‘Domine Fili unigenite’ is used at the ‘in nomine’ of the Benedictus; ‘Domine Deus, Agnus Dei’ is the same as ‘Et incarnatus est’ in the Creed; and ‘Quoniam tu solus sanctus’ is the ‘Pleni sunt caeli’ from the Sanctus. The source for this Mass is the Gyffard Partbooks.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2015