Evening Service in Latin (Thomas Tallis)

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  • (Posted 2022-01-25)  CPDL #67754:      Magnificat:   Nunc dimittis:  
Editor: Jason Smart (submitted 2022-01-25).   Score information: A4, 24 pages, 398 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC ND
Edition notes: Edited from the Baldwin Partbooks. Original pitch and note values retained.
  • (Posted 2020-09-28)  CPDL #60702:       
Editor: Michael Winter (submitted 2020-09-28).   Score information: A4, 26 pages, 350 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Magnificat only. Original note values and source spelling have been retained. The missing Tenor part has been editorially supplied. Feel free to get in contact if you would like a transposition.
  • (Posted 2020-05-26)  CPDL #58820:     
Editor: Simon Biazeck (submitted 2020-05-26).   Score information: A4, 28 pages, 403 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Original pitch and note-values with ligatures in closed brackets; cue-sized and cautionary accidentals are editorial. Text within square brackets is entirely editorial, i.e. not prompted in the Ms. All John Baldwin’s syllabic slurs have been faithfully reproduced; dashed slurs are editorial. The missing Tenor part has been reconstructed by the editor.
(Click here to expand/collapse further notes on editorial approach)

Clefs: G2, C2, C3, [C4], F4.

(NB - Any similarities to the currently published reconstruction of the missing Tenor part are purely coincidental. Requests, however well-meant, to change this note or that text underlay, reformat the edition or revise the pagination will not be considered and may result in removal of all files by the editor. Those wishing to have a replication of the published edition (complete with consecutive fifths!) should purchase it or make an edition of their own.)

In a five-part score that is greatly reliant upon imitative counterpoint, many of the solutions for restoration of the missing Tenor are obvious, requiring little editorial creativity, except perhaps in the matter of passing notes, accidentals and cadential ornamentation. But above all, it seemed important that the editorial part should not impose undue force majeure on the existing material by way of accidentals.

The approach to editorial accidentals may display a noticeably different approach to that which performers have encountered elsewhere in editions of works by Thomas Tallis and other English music from the time. It certainly seeks to address aural prejudices some modern listeners may have regarding performer's accidentals for this music.

The English Cadence came in and out of fashion on the Continent some time before the English grew weary of it, Thomas Morley declaring it “stale” in 1579. John Baldwin’s edition shows many leading notes, whilst a number of others were clearly, in my view at lesast, left to the singers. We shouldn’t expect absolute consistency or exactitude from scribes, and Tallis is perfectly clear in this regard, with all his cadences well prepared and clear to both eye and ear. (Singers’ initiative in these matters was expected.) For example, the cadential figures in b. 179 (Superius) and b. 182 (Contratenor) of the Magnificat punctuate identical phrases, and to say, perhaps, that raising the Cs in the Superius is not warranted because the effect is unnecessarily harsh seems rather subjective. Considering for a moment that this may be a late Henrician work, there is ample evidence for such leading notes (and their auxiliaries) in the French secular music that was so influential in Henry's court, much of which is confirmed in organ intabulations.

The application of editorial B-flats to the Superius, Contratenor and the new Tenor in bars 21-23 of the Magnificat (and the identical passage in the Nunc dimittis) could be argued on the grounds of harmonic context, but this would require too much full-score knowledge. Unaltered, the counterpoint is well within the style for this period, not to say far more felicitous and beguiling; their linear integrity is preserved.

In verse 4 of the Nunc dimittis (b. 26-28), it seems prudent to avoid editorial F-sharps and C-sharps in bars 26-28. Despite the F-sharps in the previous phrase, the Superius would not naturally ascend to a major sixth, thereby precipitating a minor landslide of alterations to the Contratenor. A reasonable adherence to the mode would have been expected, and if Tallis had desired another reading he would surely have notated it clearly.

Finally, one harmonic tritone remains intact (Magnificat b. 154), concordances for which may be found in many Continental sources. Doubtless, some may feel it necessary to “correct” it, citing the so-called "rules of musica ficta". Here a problem arises. Theorists of the Medieval and Renaissance periods did not assemble a set of rules for performers’ accidentals (musica ficta as we understand it), and yet there seems to be a tacit agreement on the approach, codified by musicologists in our own time, citing various treatises on counterpoint, solmization and mode, but what would Tallis have expected?

General Information

Title: Evening Service in Latin (Magnificat & Nunc dimittis)
Composer: Thomas Tallis

Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SATTB
Genre: SacredEvening Canticles

Language: Latin
Instruments: A cappella

    Manuscript ca. 1575 in The Baldwin Partbooks; Tenor missing, no. 62

External websites:

Original text and translations

Original text and translations may be found at Magnificat and Nunc dimittis.