Tallis, Thomas

Tallis, Thomas
(ca. 1505-1585)
   English composer and organist, noted for his mastery of counterpoint. He was organist at a Benedictine abbey at Dover in 1532 and then at Waltham Abbey until the disso-lution of all remaining monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1540. Tallis then became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, a position he held until his death. During the reign of Edward VI (1547-1553), he composed music for the new Anglican liturgy, but some of his best compositions were made during the Catholic restoration under Queen Mary I (1553-1558), including the mass Puer natus est nobis and sev-eral much-admired motets. Tallis passed easily and apparently with no qualms of conscience into the service of Elizabeth I (1558-1603), un-der whom he composed music for both Latin and English liturgical texts, though most of his work was still for Latin liturgies. He com-posed several settings for Archbishop Matthew Parker's English Psalter. From 1570, his colleague in the Chapel Royal was the man who became the leading English musician of the next generation, William Byrd. In 1575 Tallis and Byrd published the collection Can-tiones sacrae, to which each of them contributed 17 motets. That same year, the crown granted them a 21-year monopoly for printing music and music paper, but this privilege did not turn out to be so lucrative as they hoped, and after two years they petitioned successfully for an annual pension. Tallis also composed secular vocal and keyboard works, but his importance lies in the field of sacred music.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.


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