Taverner was the leading English composer of his generation, and one of the most influential of English composers. He was born in Lincolnshire, served in a prestigious post at the short-lived Cardinal College at Oxford, and ended his life back in the Lincolnshire town of Boston. Much of Taverner's music was apparently composed early in his life, before the effects of the Reformation could be fully felt in England and before continental compositional practice would have its full influence. He is best known for his large-scale sacred choral music: several masses, votive antiphons, and Magnificats.
Taverner's musical style represents the last major essay in the uniquely English florid repertory, based on elaborate free counterpoint and extended melismatic climaxes for accomplished soloists. However, his technique also incorporates some continental ideas on development, especially in its use of motivic connection within and between movements. Taverner's three large-scale Festal Masses ("Gloria Tibi Trinitas," "Corona Spinea," "O Michael") are particularly admired for their variety of invention and command of form. The beautiful "In Nomine" section of the Benedictus of his "Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas" – first arranged by Taverner himself for instrumental ensemble – served as the inspiration for an entirely new English genre of composition, which was to retain its vigor until the time of Purcell. Taverner's music, created during a tumultuous period in English history, is particularly well-thought-of today for its combination of reflective and innovative elements. ~ Todd McComb (6/94)