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Thomas Tallis and his Music in Victorian England

Thomas Tallis and his Music in Victorian England

Suzanne Cole
Volume: 4
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Thomas Tallis and his Music in Victorian England
    Book Description:

    In Victorian England, Tallis was ever-present: in performances of his music, in accounts of his biography, and through his representation in physical monuments. Known in the nineteenth century as the 'Father of English Church Music', Tallis occupies a central position in the history of the music of the Anglican Church. This book examines in detail the reception of two works that lie at the stylistic extremes of his output: 'Spem in alium', revived in the 1830s, though generally not greatly admired, and the 'Responses', which were very popular. A close study of the performances, manuscripts and editions of these works casts light on the intersections between the antiquarian, liturgical and aesthetic goals of nineteenth-century editors and musicians. By tracing Tallis's reception in nineteenth-century England, the author charts the hold Tallis had on the Victorians and the ways in which Anglican - and English - identity was defined and challenged. Dr SUE COLE is a research associate at the Faculty of Music, University of Melbourne.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-678-6
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. vi-vii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. viii-ix)
  6. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    In an interview with Anna King Murdoch in the Melbourne daily newspaper The Age, Peter Phillips, director of the Tallis Scholars, observed that neither he himself, nor any of his singers, was a practising Christian. He explained: ‘We’re a professional concert-giving ensemble which happens to do sacred music. It’s just very good music.’¹ He also questioned whether the composers of Renaissance sacred music were ‘religious themselves’, pointing out that laws against heresy would have made them think twice about admitting to atheism. He implies that his belief that music should be approached as ‘just very good music’ would have been...

  8. CHAPTER 1 ‘It is here that we must look for Tallis’: Tallis’s music
    (pp. 13-61)

    In the course of this book I will examine many different pieces of music: music that ranges from simple harmonisations of plainsong to the pinnacle of technical complexity; that was performed by farm labourers and ‘country boys in frocks’,¹ and in the Chapel Royal and at the creations of Princes; that was published in elaborately bound volumes selling for many pounds and in single sheets costing only pennies; that was attributed to Tallis, written by Tallis, and written about Tallis. The one thing that unifies these disparate musical phenomena into an entity that could be considered a valid subject for...

  9. CHAPTER 2 ‘Such a man as Tallis’: Tallis the man
    (pp. 62-96)

    In November 1861 Prince Albert died, and discussions about the construction of an appropriate memorial began almost immediately. By the mid-1860s sculptor Henry Hugh Armstead had begun construction of his share (the Poets and Musicians) of the 169 figures forming the Parnassus of the fine arts that surround the four sides of Gilbert Scott’s Victorian Gothic memorial.¹ The Parnassus was, in the words of Stephen Bayley, ‘encrusted with all mankind’s eternal geniuses of the fine arts, suggestive of the timeless basis upon which the arts in England presently flourished or, at least as they were supposed to’.² Tallis was one...

  10. CHAPTER 3 ‘This Mistake of a Barbarous Age’: Spem in alium
    (pp. 97-129)

    In February 1878 the Rev. H. Fleetwood Shepherd wrote a letter to the editor of the Musical Times, which contained an account of the circumstances surrounding the composition and first performance of Tallis’s ‘Song of Forty Parts’, Spem in alium. He had uncovered the account some twenty years earlier in the Cambridge University Library, in the Commonplace Book of a Thomas Waterbridge, who had recorded the story as told to him by Ellis Swayne on 27 November 1611, almost thirty years after Tallis’s death:

    In Queen Elizabeth’s time yere was a songe sen[t] into England in 30 parts (whence ye...

  11. CHAPTER 4 ‘A Solid Rock of Harmony’: The Preces and Responses
    (pp. 130-170)

    Richard Turbet wrote in 1985 that, with few exceptions, no piece of British music ‘attracts more excitement than Tallis’s gigantic Spem in alium’.¹ In the nineteenth century, however, it was not the Song of Forty Parts, nor any of his now highly regarded Latin motets, but Tallis’s modest settings of the Preces, Responses and Litany that were identified as ‘the principal means of conferring immortality upon Queen Elizabeth’s organist.’² These fragments of harmonised plainchant were more frequently published and performed, more intensely debated and more highly regarded than any other portion of Tallis’s output, or indeed almost any other piece...

  12. CHAPTER 5 ‘The Englishman’s Harmony’: Tallis and national identity
    (pp. 171-190)

    Leo Treitler begins his article ‘Gender and Other Dualities of Music History’ with the claim that

    Music is, among other things, a discourse of myth through which ‘Western civilization’ contemplates and presents itself. This is said, not in order to question the truth value of music-historical narratives, but to emphasize their aspect as stories of traditional form that the culture tells in its desire to affirm its identity and values.¹

    The idea of the concretization – that in the perceptions of a particular collective an individual work or the works of a given composer will assume a distinct shape that...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 191-195)

    Only a fraction of Tallis’s compositional output was discussed, published or performed in the nineteenth century, and that fraction cannot, at least by current criteria of judgement, be considered his best; of this fraction only If ye love me can be said to have ‘stood the test of time’.¹ The setting of All people that on earth attributed to him at that time is competent but uninspiring; the Veni Creator is unworthy of even such faint praise. The Responses are inherently slight, and the four-part arrangements, particularly as advocated by Rimbault, reduce their interest still further; the Dorian Service is...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 196-213)
  15. Index
    (pp. 214-222)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 223-223)