Sunday, July 18, 2010

English Anthems: Taverner, Tallis and Tavener

There is a simple beauty in a classic English anthem.

After the Reformation took root in England, composers went from lavish runs of notes on one syllable to a "one note per syllable" style. Also, the older anthems tended to be in Latin, and the newer anthems were in English.

An example of the earlier music is this "Sanctus" from John Taverner's Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas (in English, "'Glory to You, O Trinity' Mass"). Taverner was born around 1490 and died around 1545.

This is only Part 1 of the Sanctus, and you will only hear one word: Sanctus. The first syllable lasts for over 30 seconds!


Coming along just a tad later in English history is composer Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 to 1585). Tallis embraced the newer form of "one note per syllable" using English texts and while he also composed in the older tradition, he really made a name for himself with what was then a "new form."


This "new" tradition of one note per syllable continues even in today's English composers. Here is "The Lamb" by contemporary composer John Tavener (born in 1944; note that there is no "r" in his name). Tavener uses modern tonality yet sticks to the English tradition started in the Reformation.


Look for more English anthems, both ancient and modern, each day this week on All for Hymn.