Thomas Tallis  and Gregorio Allegri

1505-1585           1582-1652   

Music of the Passion

 

For a Polish translation, go to the excellent page developed by Marie Stefanova on her blog. 

 

 

Thomas Tallis is was the most influential English composer of his generation, as well as one of the most popular Renaissance composers of today. Tallis served as an organist and in other professional capacities for four English monarchs, including in the Royal Chapel. Together with his most famous student, William Byrd, he obtained a monopoly right from Queen Elizabeth I for the publication of vocal music. Tallis presided over the most dynamic period in English musical history, during which the continental style of structural imitation was largely adopted by English composers in the wake of the Reformation and suppression of the monasteries.

Though Tallis' music includes a wide range of styles and objectives, the bulk of his output is choral music, both in the older Latin motet style and the newer English anthem style. Lyrical ideas usually dominate his musical impulses, and his polyphony is often primarily chordal or homophonic. He was not especially interested in technical counterpoint as such, and his settings have a consequent air of serenity about them that arises from the straightforward musical means used to develop melodic ideas. His sacred Latin choral music is his most highly regarded achievement; this large output is mostly in the motet genre with a wide range of personally selected texts, set syllabically in the style of the continental Renaissance masters of Italy and the North. His English Anthems also played an important role in the early development of this long-lived genre.

Today, Tallis' music continues to be extremely popular. It has been used for motivation by such contemporary composers as Ralph Vaughan Williams and Peter Maxwell Davies, as well as providing much of the impetus for the early music movement in English choral performance. Though Tallis' technical achievements pale by comparison with many of his near contemporaries, his music has a superbly communicative element of human expression which still speaks directly to audiences. ~ Todd McComb, All Music Guide

 

By far the most celebrated composition of Allegri is the Miserere mei, Deus, a setting of Vulgate Psalm 51 (50). It is written for two choirs, the one of five and the other of four voices, and has obtained considerable celebrity.  It was composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins on Wednesday and Friday of Holy Week.

The Miserere is one of the most often-recorded examples of late Renaissance music, although it was actually written during the chronological confines of the Baroque era; in this regard it is representative of the music of the Roman School of composers, who were stylistically conservative.  It was music that inspired such composers as Mendelssohn, Liszt and Mozart. ~ Todd McComb, All Music Guide

Text of Miserere (English translation):

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness:
According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.

 

Sample of their music:

Tallis: Salvator mundi (Antiphon for Good Friday, commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus at Calvery; written in Latin; 3:58) from the album Salve Regina - 2001

Tallis: Credo from Mass in Four Voices (7:09) from the album Benedictus - Classical Music For Reflection And Meditation - 1999.

Allegri: Miserere (Psalm 51 - Ash Wednesday; 13:51) from the album A Beginners Guide To Classical (complete) Allegri - 2007  Listen while viewing the Sistine Chapel.

Music for Passiontide from Saint Paul Sunday (American Public Media, broadcast 16 March 2008)

 

return to schedule