Jerome Weber
February 2000

Each of the first three albums of this set of the complete works of Thomas Tallis offered a Mass, filled out with votive antiphons and motets. The pieces on this disc are hymns and responsories for the Divine Office, mostly composed during the last years of Henry VIII. An early Magnificat is also heard here (the finer setting of his Elizabethan years was recorded on the second disc, along with some English settings for Anglican worship). Another album of Office pieces will appear next.

It is significant that Tallis wrote several polyphonic works for Compline. Some of the greatest Catholic works of the Tudor period were votive antiphons, which were sung after Compline. Since they were additions to the liturgical hours, they were the first to be eliminated by the reformers. By composing these settings for Compline, Tallis made up for the loss of the splendid votive antiphons.

Other pieces composed for the Office belong to major feast days when the king took part in the liturgy of the Chapel Royal.

Much of the music is sung from new editions, and the singing is of great distinction. All of these works have been recorded, some of them only once before, but the systematic organisation of this complete set is an advantage in understanding and appreciating their place and purpose