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Music Monday: Spem In Alium 1570

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Thomas Tallis Image One
Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)
Portrait by Gerard van der Gucht
Engraving by Niccolò Haym
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Now, we are in the 1570s…

Spem in Alium is Latin for “hope in any other” or “hope in another”. A 40-part Renaissance Motet, it was composed in 1570 (thereabouts) by Thomas Tallis (Tallys). Written for eight choirs of five voices each, meaning there are 40 separate voices singing individual lines of music, it is considered to be Tallis’s greatest achievement and, possibly, one of the finest compositions of all time.

Information on where it was first performed is scarce. There appears to be some confusion regarding where it took place, as two locations…Nonsuch Palace, a royal Tudor palace in Surrey built by Henry VIII (not to be confused with Nonsuch Mansion) and Arundel House, a London townhouse originally for the Bishops of Bath & Wells…were both owned by Henry Fitzalan, the 12th/19th Earl of Arundel at one time. Most of what I have read leans towards Arundel House but, truly, I don’t think anyone really knows. It’s all a big guess. And, it is pure speculation as to why he wrote it. Some suggestions include a challenge due to an Italian composer doing same, Elizabeth’s 40th birthday or, perhaps for Mary as he was Catholic. Again, no one really knows.

The music, below, is soul stirring. ~Vic

Arundel House Image Three
Artist: Wenceslaus Hollar
Arundel House
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

The text of the motet:

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 caeli et terrae
respice humilitatem nostram

Nonsuch Palace Image Two
Artist: Georg Hoefnagel 1568
Watercolour of the south frontage of Nonsuch Palace
Image Credit: wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

 

English Translation:

I have never put my hope in any other
but in Thee, God of Israel
who canst show both wrath and graciousness,
and who absolves all the sins
of man in suffering
Lord God,
Creator of Heaven and Earth
Regard our humility

Additional Reading & Sources:
The Belle Jar (Blog Post)
Oxford Music Online
Spem in Alium History (PDF on Super Flumina Website)
How To Buy Spem In Alium (Classic FM Website)
Tallis and His Song of Forty Parts (Zenodo Website)

Music Monday: Ancient Music & Thoughts

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I’ve been digging around, looking for something interesting. Back in September 2019, I posted about Billboard locking down/wiping out their online charts behind a paywall. I don’t know if this is a fluke or if they got a lot of blow-back for what they did but, the charts have reappeared (their Hot 100 era). Ok. Good. Time will tell if they stay. And, I hope they did get some blow-back. Assholes.

Seikilos Column Wiki Image One
Seikilos Column (marble stele/tombstone)
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Now that I got that off my chest, on to other stuff.

Wikipedia has a timeline of musical events (Yeah. I know. Wikipedia is hardly a bastion of truth but, seems to be a bit less haphazard with music, plants, animals, cars and finding a U.S. town.) I stumbled across the Seikilos Epitaph, a short, little marble tombstone with poetry/lyrics/text, with musical notation, written in Greek. It is unusual and unique because it is the oldest, intact musical composition in the world. It was found in Tralles, Turkey, an ancient, Hellenistic town where Aydin exists, now. The lyrics:

Ὅσον ζῇς φαίνου
μηδὲν ὅλως σὺ λυποῦ
πρὸς ὀλίγον ἔστι[2] τὸ ζῆν
τὸ τέλος ὁ χρόνος ἀπαιτεῖ.

hóson zêis, phaínou
mēdèn hólōs sù lupoû
pròs olígon ésti tò zên
tò télos ho khrónos apaiteî.

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and time demands his due.

Wikipedia Inscription Image Two
Photo Credit: National Museum of Denmark
Lennart Larsen
Wikipedia & Wikimedia

The dedication was partially destroyed and could read:

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[πῃ]
Seikílos Eutér[pēi]
“Seikilos to Euterpe”, possibly his wife (also the name of the Muse of Music)

OR

Σεικίλος Εὐτέρ[που]
Seikílos Eutér[pou]
“Seikilos, son of Euterpes”

The inscription reads:

Εἰκὼν ἤ λίθος εἰμί. τίθησί με Σεικίλος ἔνθα μνήμης ἀθανάτου σῆμα πολυχρόνιον.
eikṑn ḗ líthos eimí. títhēsí me Seikílos éntha mnḗmēs athanátou sêma polukhrónion.
“I am a tombstone, an image. Seikilos placed me here as a long-lasting sign of deathless remembrance.”

The dating of the tombstone has proven elusive. The range is from the first century B.C to the first or second century A.D. based upon paleography.

Take a listen:

Here is another version, based upon the inscription being dedicated to a wife:
Song of Seikilos (Classic FM website)