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Thomas Tallis

Born: 1505. Died: 1585. Lived in: England

Little is known about Tallis's early life, but there seems to be agreement that he was born in the early 16th century, toward the close of the reign of Henry VII. His first known appointment to a musical position was as organist of Dover Priory in 1530-31, a Benedictine priory at Dover (now Dover College) in 1532. His career took him to London, then (probably in the autumn of 1538) to the Augustinian abbey of Holy Cross at Waltham until the abbey was dissolved in 1540.

composed and performed for Henry VIII, Edward VI (1547-1553), Queen Mary (1553-1558), and Queen Elizabeth I (1558 until Tallis died in 1585). Throughout his service to successive monarchs as organist and composer, Tallis avoided the religious controversies that raged around him, though, like William Byrd, he stayed an "unreformed Roman Catholic." Tallis was capable of switching the style of his compositions to suit the different monarchs' vastly different demands. Among other important composers of the time, including Christopher Tye and Robert White, Tallis stood out. Walker observes, "He had more versatility of style than either, and his general handling of his material was more consistently easy and certain."

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Recordings and DVDs

Displaying 1-5 of 5 items.


Cardinall's Musick : Tallis - Gaude Gloriosa : 1 CD : Andrew Carwood : 67548

Cardinall's Musick : Tallis - Gaude Gloriosa

This new Hyperion recording celebrates the 500th anniversary of the birth of England's first superstar composer, Thomas Tallis, and welcomes the signing to the label of The Cardinall's Musick and Andrew Carwood. Over the group's fifteen-year history, The Cardinall's Musick has built an enviable reputation for excellence. Some twenty recordings on the ASV Gaudeamus label have seen accolades from around the world, including a Gramophone Award and a Diapason d'Or, while in the concert hall and workshop the group has consistently displayed innovation and a freshness of approach, whether tackling contemporary works (many of them commissions) or sharing the fruits of years of research into the music of the English Renaissance. On their debut recording for Hyperion, The Cardinall's Musick turns to the period of its namesake, Cardinal Wolsey, and specifi cally to the music of Thomas Tallis. Gaude gloriosa takes center stage. One of a series of monumental and extended motets (each lasting getting on for twenty minutes), this should be regarded as the summation of the genre - whereas Tallis's earlier attempts such as Salve intemerata or Ave Dei Patris fi lia can seem to ramble somewhat, in Gaude gloriosa we find a sure-footed and eloquent response to an unusual text in honor of the Virgin Mary, and a work which takes singer and listener alike into a world of unremitting fervor. Other works on this recording include the famous Loquebantur variis linguis and O nata lux settings, the five-voice Latin Magnificat and Nunc dimittis. Of special note is the Suscipe quaeso Domine - where a particularly gloomy text (thought to have been written to mark England's reconciliation with Rome on the accession of Mary Tudor) elicits from Tallis some truly extraordinary and rhetorical effects including harmonic shifts which are every bit as shocking today as they must have been at the work's first performance in 1554. Future plans for The Cardinall's Musick on Hyperion include the completion of their on-going series encompassing the complete Latin church music of William Byrd.

Songlist: Jesu Salvator Saeculi, Gaude Gloriosa, Sermone Blando Angelus, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, Derelinquat Impius, Loquebantur Variis Linguis, Suscipe Quaeso Domine, O Nata Lux

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8339c | 1 CD | $16.98 | A Cappella


King's Singers : Tallis: Spem In Alium : SACD : 071

King's Singers : Tallis: Spem In Alium

"Spem in alium," not just the greatest of Tallis's compositions but one of the greatest of all time, is based on a liturgical text, written for 40 independent voices, and was first performed in England in 1573. A work for 40 voices is not one that would usually be associate with the legendary all male sextet The King's Singers. Through modern recording technology, flexibility and experimentation, the six have become 40, a true harmonic convergence that occurs when the pairs high, sweet voices throw the sound across the space between them until finally all voices join for a full culmination of the work. "Spem" is a stunningly beautiful piece, although very short, eight minutes and 22 seconds to be precise, and we listened to it several times to truly appreciate it. The piece is followed by a 6-minute interview with the Singers, who discuss the experience of recording it. A short sublimely beautiful piece, recorded by one of the world's finest choral ensembles. SACD

Songlist: Spem in AliumThomas Tallis, Interview with the King's Singers

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Performed by King's Singers | 7984c | SACD | $11.98 | A Cappella


Sixteen : Tallis - Sacred Choral Works - Spem in alium : 1 CD : Harry Christophers : 513

Sixteen : Tallis - Sacred Choral Works - Spem in alium

Songlist: Spem in alium, Te lucis ante terminum, O nata lux, The Lamentations ofJeremiah:, I Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae, II De lamentatione Jeremiae phophetae, O Sacrum Convivium, Jesu salvator saeculi, Salvator mundi, salva nos, Loquenbantur variis linguis, Gaude glorioa Dei Mater

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6921c | 1 CD | $14.98 | A Cappella


Sixteen : Thomas Tallis : Spem in alium : 1 CD : Harry Christophers : 16016

Sixteen : Thomas Tallis : Spem in alium

Newly recorded in the round and in surround sound, Thomas Tallis' 40-part motet, Spem in alium, one of the great landmarks of polyphony, forms the centre-piece of this dazzling CD. Under the theme, Music for Monarchs and Magnates' The Sixteen draws together music by Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins, some of it never before recorded, some indeed not performed since the time of its writing. It explores the use of music for ceremonial, even propaganda purposes by the state, contrasted with the composers' private use of biblical texts to give public vent to their own sometimes dangerous views in an England torn by political and religious strife. Alongside the usual 40 voice setting of Spem in Alium is an English version of the same work - Sing and Glorify - which was adapted to an English text for King James I to honour his son Henry, the newly-annointed Prince of Wales. With cornetts, sackbuts, dulcians and organs in place of some voices, this is a glorious complement to the usual version.

Songlist: Spem in Alium, O all true faithful hearts, Deus venerunt gentes, Know you not, Great King of Gods (Lord of Lords), O God, the heathen are come, Te Deum, Be Strong and of A Good Courage, Spem in Alium (also set as "Sing and glorify")

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7909c | 1 CD | $16.98 | A Cappella


Tallis Scholars : Thomas Tallis - Spem In Alium : 1 CD : Peter Philips : 006

Tallis Scholars : Thomas Tallis - Spem In Alium

"Spem in alium" is one of the most remarkable pieces ever written. This forty-voice motet for eight five-part choirs has carefully constructed counterpoint in alternation with striking homophony. No one is certain of the reasons that led Tallis to write something so bold. The large number of choirs creates an amazing stereo-effect and, therefore, is often sung surrounding the audience. The remaining motets on this recording are no less astounding. His merits as a composer must be remembered, as he remained court composer, despite being Catholic, under the rule of Elizabeth I. As usual, the Tallis Scholars lend sheer beauty and clarity to this phenomenal music.

Songlist: Spem in alium, Sancte Deus, Salvator mundi, salva nos I, Salvator mundi, salva nos II, Gaude gloriosa, Miserere nostri, Loquebantur variis linguis

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7156c | 1 CD | $16.98 | A Cappella

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