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Thomas Tallis

Born around 1505, Thomas Tallis lived through all the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century and showed a remarkable ability to rise to the challenges of composing for both Protestant and Catholic masters. Before the dissolution he served at Dover Priory, St Mary-at-Hill, London, and Waltham Abbey. A short period at Canterbury Cathedral led to his appointment to the Chapel Royal in 1543, where he remained until his death in 1585. Although his early Latin works are in the melismatic style also used by his older contemporary John Taverner, during the reign of Mary such works as the mass Puer natus show that he was fully conversant with the continental compositional techniques of the mid-sixteenth century. In his late collaboration with William Byrd, Cantiones sacrae (1575), Tallis showed the full breadth of his powers, with motets ranging from the cultured simplicity of O nata lux to the bold harmonic experimentation found in In ieiunio et fletu. On the other hand, he proved to be the equal of all the problems posed by the Protestant dictates of Cranmer, with his Dorian Service and surviving short anthems (including the well-known If ye love me) leading the way in pioneering the syllabic style required for Anglican worship during the reign of Edward VI. Time, however, has not dealt kindly with part of Tallis's English output, and unfortunately only single parts of twelve anthems and two large-scale services survive. Those works which do remain intact display a range of expression similar to that found in his Latin music, from the touching simplicity of Hear the voice and prayer to the contrapuntal grandeur of the Easter anthem Christ rising.

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