Tudor organist and composer of Masses and motets;b. Tattershall?, England, c. 1495; d. Boston, Lincolnshire, Oct. 25, 1545. His name appears first in 1525 as clerk-fellow at the collegiate church of Tattershall near Lincoln, then as organist and choirmaster at Cardinal College, Oxford (1526–30). In 1528 he was imprisoned briefly for alleged heretical (Lutheran) leanings and released through Wolsey's intervention. From 1530 until his death he engaged in fanatical persecutions as paid agent of Thomas Cromwell in the destruction of monasteries. Taverner's music, probably all composed before 1530, comprises eight Masses, three Magnificats, 23 motets on liturgical texts, and some instrumental pieces. His style varied from a simple homophonic manner to the florid technique of his most inspired works, the Magnificats. The cantus firmus on the words In nomine Domini of the Benedictus of his Mass Gloria Tibi Trinitas was the thematic source for more than 100 instrumental pieces called Innomine's, by tye and other English composers.
Bibliography: f. l. harrison, Music in Medieval Britain (New York 1958); "English Polyphony c. 1470–1540," New Oxford History of Music, ed. j. a. westrup, 11 v. (New York 1957–) 3:303–348. e. h. fellowes, Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. e. blom 9 v. (5th ed. London 1954) 8:323–324. g. reese, Music in the Renaissance (rev. ed. New York 1959) 778–781. d. stevens, Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, ed. f. blume (Kassel-Basel 1949–) v.13. h. r. benham, "The Music of John Taverner: A Study and Assessment" (Ph.D. diss. Southhampton, 1970). r. bowers and p. doe, "John Taverner" in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 18, ed. s. sadie, (New York 1980) 598–602. c. hand, John Taverner: His Life and Music (London 1978). d. s. josephson, "John Taverner: A Documentary Study of His Life and Music" (Ph.D. diss. Columbia University, 1972); John Taverner: Tudor Composer (Ann Arbor 1979). d. m. randel, ed., The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music (Cambridge 1996) 903–904. n. slonimsky, ed., Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, Eighth Edition (New York 1992) 1856.
[s. w. kenney]
Taverner, John, important English composer; b. South Lincolnshire, c. 1490; d. Boston, Lincolnshire, Oct. 18, 1545. He was a lay clerk of the choir at the collegiate church of Tattershall (1524-25). In 1526 he was appointed master of the choristers at Cardinals’ Coll. in Oxford. In 1530 he became lay clerk of the choir of the parish church of St. Botolph, in Boston, Lincolnshire, where he served until 1537. In the latter year he was elected a member of the Guild of Corpus Christi there, serving as one of its 2 treasurers from 1541 to 1543. In 1545 he was appointed a town alderman, but died soon afterward. The widely circulated stories of his imprisonment for heresy and of his serving as an agent for Cromwell are totally unfounded. Taverner was a prolific composer of church music; among his works are 8 masses, 9 mass sections, 3 Magnificats, about 25 motets, 4 part-songs, and 2 instrumental pieces. His church music is found in Vols. I and III of Tudor Church Music (1923-24) and in H. Benham, ed., John Taverner: The Six-part Masses, Early English Church Music, XX (1978).
H. Benham, The Music of j. T.: A Study and Assessment (diss., Univ. of Southampton, 1970); C. Hand, j. T.: His Life and Music (London, 1978); D. Josephson, J. T., Tudor Composer (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1979).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire