The Votive Antiphon Salve intemerata virgo
is an extended piece in honour of the Virgin Mary. Two regimes in Tallis’ lifetime required such pieces—Henry VIII’s pre-Reformation years and Mary’s restored Catholic rite. Its length and style combined with the rambling, rather complicated text clearly point to a piece for Henry. The antiphon is a great achievement with many fine and impressive moments and it is a great improvement on a rather jejune Latin four-voice Magnificat which probably pre-dates it. The earliest manuscript for the Antiphon is a single partbook dating from the late 1520s when Tallis would have been in his early twenties. He has obviously assimilated the work of Robert Fayrfax and others who excelled in the pre-Reformation style. The piece is in two main sections (the first in a triple metre and the second in a duple) and involves an alternation of sections for solo voices set against dramatic contributions from the full choir. It also includes an excellent final Amen section with a strong rhythmic impetus and a crescendo of imitation driving the listener to the final cadence.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2013