John Taverner was the leading composer of church music under Henry VIII. His contributions to the mass and votive antiphon are varied, distinguished and sometimes innovative; he has left more important settings for the office than any of his predecessors, and even a little secular music survives. Hugh Benham, editor of Taverner's complete works for Early English Church Music, now provides the first full-length study of the composer for over twenty years. He places the music in context, with the help of biographical information, discussion of Taverner's place in society, and explanation of how each piece was used in the pre-Reformation church services. He investigates the musical language of Taverner's predecessors as background for a fresh examination and appraisal of the music in the course of which he traces similarities with the work of younger composers. Issues confronting the performer are considered, and the music is also approached from the listener's point of view, initially through close analytical inspection of the celebrated votive antiphon Gaude plurimum.
'... the author not only [has] an excellent understanding of his composer but a remarkable ability to describe what is happening in his music in a way that is as meaningful to the enthusiastic amateur singer as to the professional scholar...Benham can write about music in a way that draws the reader into the sort of detailed description of how the music works that from other hands would be unreadable.' Early Music Review 'This outstanding volume is a welcome addition to the resurgent literature on pre-Reformation English music.' Choice 'Here we have a scholar's book from an eminent scholar... Benham has an easy, readable literary style, and this is a significant and authoritative book...' Church Music Quarterly 'Who better than Hugh Benham [...] to write the latest study of the composer and his music? With a commanding and long standing knowledge of the subject [...] Benham has substantial credentials as an advocate for this repertory... with more than 120 music examples, numerous tables and illustrations, a discography and complete transcriptions of several archival documents by way of appendices, this is evidently a book intended to serve as the definitive text on Taverner for the foreseeable future... Benham largely fulfils his dual brief, communicating an engaging and coherent account of a subject which he knows intimately.' Early Music '... I believe that Hugh Benham has produced a powerful exemplar of the presentist method of harmonic desription. But this is only one of the many fine attributes of this long-awaited book on the most prominent English composer of his time. It has been well worth the wait.' Music and Letters 'It can be safely said that Hugh Benham has done an excellent job. The present title is likely to stand way ahead of those earlier dissertations and monographs in terms of content, presentation, breadth and depth. This book must now be considered the standard scholarly work on Taverner; it is thoroughly recommended... This book, then, is likely to be the standard for some time to come and can be unhesitatingly recommended for anyone interested in Taverner in particular and Renaissance choral music in general.' Classical.Net