Movement 1: Gloria
Movement 2: Credo
Movement 3: Sanctus
Movement 4: Benedictus
Movement 5: Agnus Dei
The Western Wynde may be the earliest mass composed in England to be based on a secular melody, although the practice had been common on the continent since the time of Dufay. The use of popular tunes in sacred music was advocated by Luther, and this, coupled with some internal stylistic factors, has led to the suggestion that the Mass belongs to Taverner’s Oxford years when he came into contact with advocates of the ‘new learning’. On the other hand, part of the Agnus Dei occurs in keyboard format in a manuscript which may date from as early as 1520, and which seems to have some association with Court circles. If the Mass does date from early in Taverner’s career, its progressive style and originality of design are even more remarkable.
The melody occurs nine times in each of the four movements (the Sanctus-Benedictus being a formal entity). Heard first in the top voice it subsequently moves to the contratenor or bass, while broadly similar changes of scoring and metre occur in each movement. The result is one of the most closely unified of all English cyclic masses. As was customary in England the Kyrie was not set, probably because its text would vary according to the feast or season. Taverner also left out part of the Credo text, from ‘Et in Spiritum sanctum’ to ‘in remissionem peccatorum’—again a peculiarly English practice which has never been satisfactorily explained, although Hugh Benham has suggested that such omissions arise from the early fifteenth-century practice of ‘telescoping’ or overlapping phrases of text, such portions then being abbreviated or even cut out entirely by subsequent copyists.
from notes by John Heighway © 2000