Tallis’ decision to write a Missa Salve intemerata
based on themes from his Antiphon Salve intemerata virgo
points to a key development in English music history. Unlike on the Continent, it had been more usual for English Masses to be based on plainsong tunes rather than on polyphonic compositions. Robert Fayrfax’s Missa O bone Jesu
is probably the first to break the mould, followed by John Taverner’s Missa Mater Christi sanctissima
and Missa Sancti Wilhelmi devotio
. It is likely that the Missa Salve intemerata
is later than the Antiphon. Tallis seems more in control of the music, although this may be a result of not having to wrestle with the rambling devotional text. He picks the best moments of the Antiphon to quote in the Mass and provides new and more succinct material when needed, especially in the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei. The Mass sounds more modern with its syllabic style, yet Tallis keeps the old English pre-Reformation conventions: there is no setting of the Kyrie, the Credo text is truncated and each movement begins with a head motif (the opening melodies of the Antiphon).
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2013