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Remember not, O Lord God

Tallis: Remember not, O Lord God; Hear the voice and prayer; If ye love me

Remember not, Hear the voice and prayer and If ye love me are very early examples of the Anglican anthem (the word 'anthem' had been coined two or three centuries earlier as an English version of the Latin 'antiphona'). All three anthems survived the Marian reaction and came back into use in Elizabeth's reign, being published in John Day's collection Certain Notes in 1560 (Day's version of Remember not is somewhat longer and more elaborate than the original version sung here and is to be found on a later disc in this series). On the evidence of these works, the anthem very early acquired formal and stylistic mannerisms, notably a preference for four-part writing and syllabic declamation, a tendency to alternate homophonic episodes with passages of simple imitation, and the habit of sectional repetition, particularly of the final section. The alternation of homophony and imitative counterpoint has precedents in some Latin works by English composers, such as Taverner's Meane Mass and Tallis's own Mass for four voices, but the fondness for repeated sections is harder to account for, unless it came from the contemporary French chanson. Interestingly, only one of Tallis's four surviving part-songs, Fond youth is a bubble, employs sectional repetition.

These three anthems make different interpretations of the basic concept. Remember not is entirely chordal and includes several very short repeated sections; its text, which consists of some verses of psalm LXXIX, was evidently taken from the King's Primer of 1545. Hear the voice and prayer is considerably more ambitious, being predominantly imitative (with one very tellingly placed piece of near-homophony at 'even toward this place'), and having a lengthy repeated final section. The text is taken from Solomon's prayer at the dedication of the first temple (I Kings VIII, 28-30), and one wonders whether the setting was intended for a particular occasion. In Certain Notes Day describes this anthem as being for children, but the written ranges imply performance by broken voices as in the other anthems. If ye love me alternates chordal and imitative sections, again with a repeated second half; the words, from John XIV, 15-17 in the translation of Coverdale's Great Bible (1539), form the beginning of the Gospel for Whitsunday in the Book of Common Prayer.

Nick Sandon, 15 June 1997


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