Thomas Tallis made two famous sets of the Lamentations. Scored for five voices (either one on a part or in a choral context), they show a sophisticated use of imitation, and are noted for their expressiveness. The settings are of the first two lessons for Maundy Thursday. As many other composers do, Tallis also sets the following:
- The announcements: Incipit Lamentatio Ieremiae Prophetae (“The Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet begins”) and De Lamentatione Ieremiae Prophetae (“From the Lamentation of Jeremiah the Prophet”)
- The Hebrew letters that headed each verse: Aleph, Beth for the first set; Gimel, Daleth, Heth for the second. These letters were considered part of the text in the Latin Vulgate Bible of Tallis’s day, although most English translations omit them. Tallis’s use of ‘Heth’ rather than the correct ‘He’ appears to have been an error
- The concluding refrain: Ierusalem, Ierusalem, convertere ad Dominum Deum tuum (“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, return unto the Lord thy God”) – thus emphasising the sombre and melancholy effect of the pieces
Tallis’s two settings happen to use successive verses, but the pieces are in fact independent even though performers generally sing both settings together. Composers have been free to use whatever verses they wish, since the liturgical role of the text is somewhat loose; this accounts for the wide variety of texts that appear in these pieces.
- Time of Lamentations (12itisfinished.wordpress.com)