Thomas Tallis: The Complete Works - Volume 8

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Thomas Tallis: The Complete Works - Volume 8

The Lamentations and Contrafacta

 Alistair Dixon
 Chapelle Du Roi

Signum Records are proud to present the eighth and penultimate volume of Chapelle du Roi’s recording of the Complete Works of Thomas Tallis.

This volume brings together Tallis’s two masterly settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah and English adaptations of several of his best-known Latin motets.

Thomas Tallis was one of many continental and English composers who composed settings of texts from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the opening five verses of which formed part of the office of Matins (or Tenebrae) during Holy Week. Tallis’s two settings could have been performed ritually but in all likelihood they are Elizabethan works intended for use at the private devotions of staunch Catholic sympathisers.

The statutory introduction of the First Book of Common Prayer on Whitsunday, 9th June 1549 precipitated an urgent need for a repertory of service music in the vernacular. One straightforward solution to the predicament was to adapt existing Latin motets to English texts, a genre of composition that has come to be known as a contrafactum. Contrafacta survive of liturgical music by pre-Reformation English composers as well as by several composers whose working life spanned the period of Reformation.

During the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods contrafacta and their models assumed several forms of dual existence, and were performed not only within a liturgical setting but also in a domestic context for recreation or private devotion. Usually there is no textual relationship between the model and the contrafactum. Indeed the finale of this disc, Sing & Glorify heaven’s high majesty, an adaptation of Tallis’s celebrated eight-choir (40-part) motet Spem in alium was adapted to celebrate Prince Henry’s investiture as Prince of Wales in 1610.



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Release date: 1st Sep 2004
Order code: SIGCD036
Barcode: 635212003626

1.Lamentations of Jeremiah I[7.48]
2.Lamentations of Jeremiah II[12.20]
3.Wipe Away my Sins[5.17]
4.Forgive me, Lord, my sin[5.39]
5.Blessed are those that be undefiled[4.16]
6.Arise, O Lord, and hear[2.23]
7.With all our hearts[2.29]
8.I Call and Cry to Thee[3.05]
9.O sacred and holy banquet[3.06]
10.When Jesus went[2.26]
11.Blessed be thy Name[2.21]
12.O Praise the Lord II[2.33]
13.Sing and glorify heaven's high majesty[9.36]

The Daily Telegraph, 25 September 2004

This would be a good choice for anybody wanting a first taste of Chapelle du Roi's splendid Tallis series. This eighth volume combines one of his best-known sacred works with a fascinating novelty in the form of an English version of the famous 40-part motet.

Together with some interesting and beautiful rareities, they make an attractive, coherent musical sequence. The sensitively moulded performance of the Lamentations avoids the twin pitfalls of over-emotionalism and excessive detachment. Dynamic contrasts are subtle rather than dramatic, and the singers enjoy Tallis's characteristic dissonances without wallowing in them.

Restraint is thrown to the winds, however, in Sing and Glorify, the English-text adaptation of the 40-part Spem in alium, which triumphantly concludes a group of other such versions of Latin motets. No mere stereo recording of this tour de force can completely reproduce the effect of a live performance, but Chapelle du Roi succeed in conveying a sense of spaciousness and grandeur.

Elizabeth Roche