Tag Archives: Thomas Tallis

🎻♫♪ – Spem In Alium by Thomas Tallis

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 51/501Title: Spem In Alium
Composer: Thomas Tallis
Nationality: English

After a few live performances it’s time to get back to the more regular (and cost effective) method of ticking these off. Good old Spotify. It’s also seems right to go back to the oldest piece I had yet to listen – which means another religious vocal piece. It’s also the second of two pieces by Thomas Tallis, the other one being a vocal piece that I actually liked.

I guess that, with Spem In Alium, Thomas Tallis is two for two for making a vocal piece that I enjoyed. However, and this is a new one, Spem In Alium might actually be the first vocal piece on this list (opera not included) that emotionally affected me. This might be down to having slept poorly the night before, but I want to give Tallis credit where it is due.

Spem In Alium is an incredibly ambitious piece, even for a list like this. It’s a religious motet that has been composed for eight five-person choirs – so forty voices in total. Over the course of 10 minutes the forty voices execute a wide range of different harmonies. There are some pieces of repetition, but the whole thing really does flow rather beautifully. I can only imagine just how amazing this would sound when performed live in a church.


🎻♫♪ – Lamentations of Jeremiah by Thomas Tallis

List Item: Listen to half of the 1001 Classical Works You Must Hear Before You Die
 29/501Title: Lamentations of Jeremiah
Composer: Thomas Tallis
Nationality: English

It’s been a while since the last classical piece. With the exception of the songs list, this may be the list with the longest gaps between posts. Most of this is because the sheer breadth of classical music in the book (and my lack of accompanying knowledge) makes choosing the next piece incredibly hard. The other part is because the default position of going chronologically which, for the moment, means more choral music.

With Lamentations of Jeremiah I think that I have finally found something a bit different in this early choral music. Linguistically this is a very interesting piece as the lines come from the original Hebrew, which makes for a nice change from the Latin pieces that I have heard so hard.

Also, the tone of the piece is completely different. Where the other early choral pieces pretty much had their tonal dial set to ‘praise God’, Tallis’ Lamentations of Jeremiah is religious music that’s actually melancholic. Similarly, this piece is done with a single singer taking on the line while the others act as back up – this works remarkably well with the melancholic tone as it helps to give that degree of isolation.

This was one of the shorter pieces that I have so far done for the classical list, which probably helped with my actually enjoying this. After all how Lamentations of Jeremiah outstay its welcome when it’s over in less than 15 minutes?