The backbone of this programme of Advent and Christmas music is Thomas Tallis’s extraordinary, yet incomplete, Christmas mass, Missa Puer natus est. In spite of the work’s phenomenal scope, there is no conclusive evidence as to its origin. One attractive theory holds that the mass was first performed by the joint forces of Queen Mary’s Chapel Royal and Philip II of Spain’s renowned Capilla Flamenca in December 1554 (Philip and Mary had married earlier in the year). It is based on the plainchant Puer natus est nobis – the introit for Christmas Day Mass – and it has been suggested that the plainchant may well have held a double entendre for its first hearers, as Mary was at the time erroneously believed to be pregnant with a much hoped-for heir. The work’s lavish and unusual seven-part scoring – and the presence of Flemish influences in Tallis’s writing – lend weight to this theory. On the other hand, the question of exactly when the first performance might have taken place presents a problem. We know that such a ‘joint service’ took place at St Paul’s Cathedral on 2 December, but that is unlikely to have been the occasion on which this mass was performed: Tallis surely knew the difference between Advent and Christmas – and cared! Furthermore, as one scholar has argued, it seems improbable that Tallis ‘would have been so insensitive as to use a text beginning “Puer natus est nobis” to celebrate the Queen’s rumoured pregnancy when the sex of the child, the survival of both child and mother and the stability of the realm would all have been causes of trepidation rather than rejoicing’.1
Total time: 01:18:01
|Original Recording Format|
Robina G. Young
All Hallows church, Gospel Oak, London
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||July 7, 2014|
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