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0120100927Donald Macleod introduces the music of the genius of the English Tudor age: Thomas Tallis
Thomas Tallis lived a long life by sixteenth century standards - he was 80 when he died, having served at the Chapel Royal under four monarchs, beginning with Henry VIII and ending with Elizabeth I.
The sixteenth century was an unfortunate time to be a church musician in England.
The country shuddered with political and religious upheaval as Henry, then Edward VI, then Mary and finally Elizabeth attempted to establish their own religious reforms.
Heretics were sent to the stake, traitors executed in the Tower.
Music was one of the battlegrounds, with significant risks attached for its practitioners.
Composers delicately negotiated the move from the elaborate and large-scale Catholic works of the early sixteenth century to a plainer style under Edward.
This was promptly reversed, just a few years later, when Mary came to the throne, but she herself didn't reign for long, and in the end it was Elizabeth who found the compromise between the needs of the Catholics at one end of the religious spectrum and the Puritans at the other.
Tallis worked at the hub of English church music, the Chapel Royal, for forty years.
And through it all, he turned out piece after piece of glorious music, seemingly unperturbed when all the rules changed and changed again.
As Peter Phillips of the Tallis Scholars puts it: "What it took in terms of stamina and personality to survive and excel as Tallis did, in the times he did, has something of a miracle about it."
In the first programme of the week, Donald Macleod explores the beginning of Tallis's career.
The first hint of troubled times ahead came when Tallis lost his job at the dissolution of Dover Priory.
The same thing happened again at Waltham Abbey and he made his way to London, via Canterbury Cathedral.
0220100928Donald Macleod introduces the music of the genius of the English Tudor age: Thomas Tallis
Donald Macleod traces Thomas Tallis's career under Henry VIII and discovers the changes which were imposed on church music at the Reformation.
0320100929Donald Macleod finds Tallis continuing to grapple with the new Anglican liturgy, and then - all change - as Mary comes to the throne, Catholicism is back and music returns to the luxuriant style of the pre-Reformation.
Donald Macleod introduces the music of the genius of the English Tudor age: Thomas Tallis 
0420100930Donald Macleod introduces the music of the genius of the English Tudor age: Thomas Tallis.
Donald Macleod traces Tallis's career through the reign of 'Bloody' Mary and into that of her hated half-sister, Elizabeth I.
There's music from both ends of the spectrum of Tallis's output - the simplicity of the setting (in English) of If ye love me, and the glorious, 40-part motet (in Latin), Spem in alium, one of the great masterpieces of music from any age.
05 LAST20101001Donald Macleod introduces the music of the genius of the English Tudor age: Thomas Tallis.
Donald Macleod traces Tallis's career under Elizabeth I, who granted Tallis and his colleague Byrd a licence to publish the first ever collection of English music, the Cantiones Sacrae.
(They hoped to make a fortune, but the venture was a financial disaster and it wasn't long before they were petitioning their benevolent queen for a bit of cash to tide them over.) We hear some of the pieces which were included in the collection and Byrd's musical elegy for his lifelong friend.
Plus there's Tallis's beautiful Lamentations of Jeremiah and two settings of the Magnificat, which make quite clear the range of styles he was expected to master.

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