Tallis’ Spem in Alium – Work No. 60 in our collection

Thomas Tallis (c. 1505 – 23.11.1585) is considered to be one of England’s greatest composers. He occupies a primary place in anthologies of English choral music, and he wrote the hugely popular, and memorable, Spem in alium for eight five-part choirs ’40-part Motet’.

In 1567, the city of London welcomed the visiting Italian musician and composer Alessandro Striggio and he presented his motet Ecce Beatam Lucem, written for the seemingly extravagant ensemble of 40 voice parts! The London audiences reacted to its rich and unique sonic world with great enthusiasm. As a result, it is suggested that two of England’s leading Catholic noblemen¹ issued a commission to the most senior and revered English composer of the day, namely Thomas Tallis, to match Striggio’s accomplishment. The resulting composition was none other than Spem in alium.

There are many fine recordings of this work in the catalogue but we would encourage you to explore the double CD set of Tallis’ Latin Church Music by the Taverner Consort & Choir and Andrew Parrott. Not only does this include a winning performance of Spem in alium but it also contains a veritable treasure chest of renaissance delights. This was recorded at St John-at-Hackney, London in late 1986 and still sounds simply wonderful.

¹ Thomas Howard, the fourth Duke of Norfolk, and Henry Fitzalan, the twelfth Earl of Arundel.

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