Hyperion Records

Ave, rosa sine spinis
Ave, rosa sine spinis is an anonymous text of seven stanzas and is an extended meditation on Gabriel’s greeting to Mary found in St Luke’s Gospel. Its principal source is the Peterhouse Partbooks but it requires reconstruction (expertly handled here by Nick Sandon). The text is arranged cleverly. Taking the first word of stanzas one and two, the first two words of stanzas three and four and the first lines of stanzas five and six, Gabriel’s greeting to the Virgin is reproduced in full. Its rhyming scheme is pleasingly varied, using AABB for each four-line stanza. The text seems to have been a popular choice for Books of Hours and Nick Sandon refers to a glowing introduction found in the Enchiridion preclare ecclesie Sarum … (Paris, 1530):

This prayer shewe[d] oure ladye to a devoute persone sayenge that this golden prayer is the most sweetest et acceptabeleste to me in her aperynge she hadde this salutacyon et prayer wryten with letters of golde on her breste.

The music of Ave, rosa sine spinis is a considerable advance on that found in the four-part Latin Magnificat but it is not as sophisticated as Salve intemerata virgo. It is hard to place Tallis’ works in a chronological order but of those left to us perhaps this is the second or third most youthful. We can with certainty say that it must belong to the period before his return to London as a member of the Chapel Royal in the mid-1540s. Tallis has learned his craft well, having a judicious mixture of sections for solo voices set against full-choir writing and an easy, fluent way with melody. Harmonically it is rather conservative, nearly always cadencing in D minor, but he does venture further abroad in the last section, visiting both the sub-dominant and dominant in the space of ten bars. There is also a fine closing Amen which features an imitative melody reminiscent of the final section of Gaude gloriosa (his final word in the Antiphon tradition).

from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2015

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