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Ecce beatam lucem

composer
40vv
author of text

 
In 1561, Striggio wrote the now well-known forty-part motet Ecce beatam lucem and travelled across Europe with it—allegedly with all forty part books strapped to the rear end of a donkey! Striggio’s travels included a visit to England where it is thought that he met Thomas Tallis, who would have almost certainly heard this epic motet. It is widely believed that it was from this piece that Tallis took inspiration for his own forty-part Spem in alium, as is suggested in a note from a law student:

‘In Queene Elizabeths time there was a songe sent into England of 30 parts (whence the Italians obteyned the name to be called the Apices of the world) which beeinge songe mad(e) a heavenly Harmony. The Duke of ‘_____’ bearing a great love to Musicke asked whether none of our English men could sett as good a songe, & Tallice beinge very skillfull was felt to try whether he would undertake the Matter, which he did and mad(e) one of 40 p(ar)ts which was songe in the longe gallery’ at Arundell House.’

It is likely that the elusive ‘Duke’ referred to is the Duke of Norfolk, who is thought to have commissioned Spem in alium as a challenge to English composers to produce music finer than that of their Italian counterparts. Indeed, the piece was first performed at Arundel Castle, as described. The mention of thirty parts seems to be a misunderstanding of Striggio’s forty-part work, but the reference to ‘heavenly harmony’ is something which is highly-significant even today. The overriding response of the listener to these works, especially when positioned at the centre of the sound, is truly mesmerising: it is harmonically indulgent and absolutely inimitable.

from notes by Christopher Monks © 2018

Details

Track 1 on SIGCD560 [6'54] Download only 24 May 2019 Release

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD560 track 1

Artists
ISRC
GB-LLH-19-56001
Duration
6'54
Recording date
10 July 2018
Recording venue
St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Tim Thorne
Recording engineer
Andrew Mellor & George Collins
Hyperion usage
  1. Striggio & Tallis: Supersize Polyphony (SIGCD560)
    Disc 1 Track 1
    Release date: 24 May 2019
    Download only 24 May 2019 Release
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