In ieiunio et fletu
has been said to be ‘possibly Tallis’s finest work’. Published in the Cantiones Sacrae
of 1575, which contained music by Tallis and Byrd, In ieiunio
is an astonishing matching of text to music, having absorbed much from the influx of continental music both sacred and secular into England. Chordal declamation, chromatic movement, and a careful sense of tonal architecture are the elements in the work which in combination with the more conventional polyphonic writing give a glimpse of new territory to be covered. The solemnly penitential words (‘In weeping and lamenting the priests prayed. Spare us, Lord, spare Thy people.’) give Tallis the cue to make such a complete identification with the text (and in these extremely penitential texts used by both Tallis and Byrd reference to the plight of the Catholic Church in Britain at the time is often noted) that he goes beyond his habitual technical boundaries and creates the foundations for a new vocabulary. Tallis himself took up the cue elsewhere, in his Lamentations.
from notes by Ivan Moody © 1989