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Gaude gloriosa

Thomas Tallis (c1505-1585)

Gaude gloriosa

Opinions differ as to the date of the gigantic votive antiphon Gaude gloriosa dei mater, but it is surely Tallis’s latest work in this form, in which he brings together all his previous experience. He retains the verse-tutti structure of the pre-Reformation antiphon, even writing an luxuriant double gymel reminiscent of Taverner for divided trebles and altos, but now the tuttis bear the main weight of the structure. Some writers have placed Gaude gloriosa in Henry’s reign, others in Mary’s. If it is Henrician, it must have been written relatively late in the reign, because it shows a marked advance over Salve intemerata in its handling of imitation (the musical ideas are more characterful, varied and tenaciously imitated), texture (the six voices are treated more equitably) and design (the proportions are better calculated, with a masterful control of pace and no loss of impetus in the final tutti). It is, however, rather difficult to imagine such a triumphantly Marian piece being sung in the king’s chapel; there may have been institutions where such music was still welcome in the mid-1540s, but the royal household is not likely to have been among them. A Canterbury provenance is conceivable, but it is unlikely that any of Tallis’s previous choirs could have met the challenge of so taxing a work. The maturity of Gaude gloriosa and its general similarity to the six-part antiphons of William Mundy such as Vox patris caelestis, which must have been written after 1553, strongly imply that it dates from Mary’s reign, when the text—a ninefold address to the Virgin, exhorting her rejoice in the divine blessings showered upon her—would have served both as a devotion to the Queen of Heaven and a compliment to the Queen of England.

Nick Sandon


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