Videte miraculum is the Responsory (or Respond) at First Vespers of the Purification, known in England as Candlemas. The chant on which Tallis bases his polyphony comprises several sections, the full choir alternating with soloist or solo group. Tallis leaves the solo portions as unadorned chant, implanting the choral sections of chant in a six-voice polyphonic texture. This type of Responsory is known as a ‘choral respond’; in a ‘solo respond’, only the solo portions of chant are set. The advantage of the choral respond, which developed from the solo respond in the early sixteenth century, is the dynamic musical structure imposed by the polyphonic setting of the repeating parts of the chant: the form can be summarized, omitting the brief chant intonation, as A-B-C-d-B-C-e-C (solo chant verses in lower case). In Videte miraculum this means the repetition of ‘Stans onerata’ and ‘Et matrem se laetam’ after the first solo chant verse, then, after the second verse, one final repetition of ‘Et matrem’. Tallis exploits this pattern by starting ‘Et matrem’ with a fleeting glimpse of what would now be called the relative major; this unexpected and touching moment gains in effect with each repetition. Most memorable, however, despite being heard only once, is the opening point of imitation on ‘miraculum’—a dissonance, repeated at regular intervals by each entering voice to hypnotic effect.
from notes by Robert Quinney © 2008