In manus tuas Domine (John)

Thomas Tallis's "In manus tuas Domine" (number 3 in "Cantiones Sacrae", 1575) is rarely sung, and appears to be absent from most of the standard modern anthologies of sixteenth-century music (though Noam Elkies tells me that a copy can be downloaded from the Choral Public Domain Library). Doubtless this is because of the vicious false relation between alto and tenor 28 minims into the piece. This is a pity, because otherwise the music is very fine. Some years ago, I did my own transcription in which this false relation was smoothed out (thus spoiling the accuracy of the imitative entries, but I regarded this as the lesser evil), and it has become very much a favourite of a group I sing with.

To download this transcription, click here. It was scanned from my master, which is in pencil and somewhat faint, but I think it is readable. "Cantiones Sacrae" itself was reprinted in facsimile by Boethius Press in 1976, and although this edition is now out of print I am told that as of August 2015 copies can still be obtained from Severinus Press in Hereford (

After making the transcription, I came across a copy of the 1912 edition by S. Liddle (Stainer and Bell Church Choir Library, No. 139) in which the false relation, described by Liddle as "an intolerably harsh effect", was resolved by replacing the alto F sharp by an F natural. Well, perhaps, but the sharp appears to have been present loud and clear in the original, and while I am always willing to believe that a copyist or printer has inadvertently omitted an accidental (it is a mistake I frequently make myself) I am much more reluctant to believe that one has been inadvertently inserted. If we accept that the false relation was a composer's oversight (and I am aware that some people consider that it may have been knowingly tolerated or even deliberately intended, and that the parts should be sung as originally printed), I stand by my guns in regarding a change from F to D in the tenor part as the better way to resolve it.