Lots of driving this weekend resulted in multiple listenings to Thomas Tallis’s great motet “Spem in alium”. Calling for a minimum of 40 singers, it’s considered a pinnacle of Renaissance polyphonic choral music (which as far as I’m concerned is already a pinnacle).
I wish the dial on the car radio would go up to 11. As it was I was afraid I would blow out my speakers, not to mention my eardrums. Tallis (1505-1585) was possibly a recusant Catholic, a dangerous critter to be in Elizabethan England. But thank goodness she must not have objected to setting Latin texts, and so we have this work for 8 choirs of 5 voices each – soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass in modern arrangements.
I have recordings by the Tallis Scholars and King’s College Cambridge. Based on a rave review in the Gramophone, I bought a recording by the group Magnificat. Here’s a link to possibly the largest performance in history — over 700 singers in Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, recorded by the BBC in 2006. What’s missing, at least on my laptop, is a sense of the extraordinary effects big stereo speakers can bring. But it’s fun to watch, and now there are even flash mobs performing it.
Man, would I love to see that. It will be performed on March 28th at St. Ignatius Loyola in New York.
- Spem in alium nunquam habui praeter in te
- Deus Israel
- qui irasceris
- et propitius eris
- et omnia peccata hominum in tribulatione dimittis
- Domine Deus
- Creator coeli et terrae
- respice humilitatem nostram
- I have never put my hope in any other but in You,
- O God of Israel
- who can show both anger
- and graciousness,
- and who absolves all the sins of suffering man
- Lord God,
- Creator of Heaven and Earth
- be mindful of our lowliness
- (original and translation from Wikipedia)