English composer; born ca. 1505 in Leicester, England; died 1585 in Greenwich, England.
Tallis was best known for his sacred choral works (i.e., music for choirs and instruments to be used in church services). Living during the time of Henry VIII and the English Reformation, Tallis had both Catholic and Protestant influences to draw upon. Most of Tallis' choral works set in Latin were motets, many of them a capella pieces, adapted from the styles of the Italian Renaissance masters such as Adrian Willaert. In addition, Tallis, along with his most famous student William Byrd, first popularized the long-lived English anthem style of choral composition. Tallis sometimes adapted earlier Latin texts in his efforts to reform the English liturgy. Tallis was known for a straightforward style that communicated mood quite effectively.
Tallis' first official position was as the organist at Waltham Abbey, from about 1537 until the dissolution of the monasteries in 1540. From there, he became a lay clerk and then organist of Canterbury Cathedral. In about 1543, he was appointed as one of the Gentlemen of the Royal Court, a position he was to serve until his death in 1585. In 1575, Tallis and Byrd received an exclusive license from Queen Elizabeth I for printing sheet music and music paper in England. The two promptly published a set of the motets. The only other works Tallis published in his lifetime were five anthems set to English words included by John Day in his "Certaine Notes".
Among Tallis' larger works two in particular stand out. His "Spem in Alium" is a choral work for forty voices--eight choirs of five voices each. Tallis' "Lamentations of Jeremiah" was probably one of his final compositions, and is still today highly regarded as a masterwork.
- AMG All Music Guide (allmusic.com)
- Classical Net (www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/tallis.html)
- The Classical Composers Database (http://utopia.knoware.nl/~jsmeets/cgi-bin/ccd.cgi?comp=tallis)