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Tallis, Thomas
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Thomas Tallis

(Born; Circa;1505; Died; Greenwich, 23 Nov 1585). English composer. He was organist of the Benedictine Priory of Dover in 1532, then probably organist at St Mary-at-Hill, London (1537-8). About 1538 he moved to Waltham Abbey where, at the dissolution (1540), he was a senior lay clerk. In 1541-2 he was a lay clerk at Canterbury Cathedral, and in 1543 became a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal; he remained in the royal household until his death acting as organist, though he was not so designated until after 1570. In 1575 Elizabeth I granted him a licence, with Byrd, to print and publish music, as a result of which the Cantiones sacrae, an anthology of Latin motets by both composers, appeared later that year.

His earliest surviving works are probably three votive antiphons (Salve intemerata virgo, Ave rosa sine spinis and Ave Dei patris filia) in the traditional structure common up to Circa;1530: division into two halves, with sections in reduced and full textures. Other early works include the Magnificat and another votive antiphon, Sancte Deus, both for men's voices. Two of his most sumptuous works, the six-voice antiphon Gaude gloriosa Dei mater and the seven-voice Mass 'Puer natus est nobis', date from Mary Tudor's brief reign (1553-8), the former featuring musical imagery and melismatic writing, the latter expert handling of current techniques of structural imitation and choral antiphony. He also composed six Latin responsories and seven Office hymns for the Sarum rite and large-scale Latin psalm motets early in Elizabeth's reign. The 40-voice motet, Spem in alium, an astonishing technical achievement, may have been composed in 1573.

Tallis was one of the first to write for the new Anglican liturgy of 1547-53. Much of this music, including If ye love me and Hear the voice and prayer, is in four parts with clear syllabic word-setting and represents the prototype of the early English anthem. His Dorian Service is in a similar style. Among his Elizabethan vernacular music are nine four-voice psalm tunes (1567) and various English adaptations of Latin motets (e.g. Absterge Domine); the Latin Lamentations and the paired five-voice Magnificat and Nunc dimittis also date from this period. His instrumental works include keyboard arrangements of four partsongs and many cantus firmus settings and a small but distinguished contribution to the repertory of consort music which includes two fine In Nomines. Tallis's early music is relatively undistinguished, with neither Taverner's mastery of the festal style nor Tye's modernisms. But much of his later work is among the finest in Europe, ranging from the artless perfection of his short anthems to the restrained pathos of the Lamentations.

© Groves Dictionaries, MacMillan Publishers Limited, UK

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