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Tallis: Benedictus

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel is the English version of Benedictus dominus deus Israel, the canticle at Lauds in the Latin rite, which became the second canticle at Mattins in the English rite. Tallis's text is identical with that of the prayer book, except for one tiny variant. One feels that Tallis did his best to create contrast in his setting of this lengthy text, within the constraints imposed by the sobriety of the style. The imitative points are effectively varied and sometimes (as at 'And hath lifted up an horn') depict their words; the homophonic episodes provide welcome relief from the prevailing counterpoint; there is a magical change of chord to illustrate 'To give light to them that sit in darkness'; and, after unremittingly syllabic word-setting, the music is allowed to flower into brief melisma for the concluding 'Amen'

Nick Sandon, 15 June 1997

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