His first (and best-known) compositions fed the tremendous vogue for Italianate music in Elizabethan England. In comparison to the then-recent publications of Morley
, Weelkes lacked the elder madrigalist's graceful simplicity in the form; his resounding sonorities and imaginative contrasts, however, were already present in the First Book of Madrigals (3-6 voices, 1597). The volumes of 1598 (5 voices) and 1600 (5 and 6 voices) present Weelkes' best work, and some of the best English madrigals of all time. Weelkes' style in this music coalesces his understanding of the tradition of Flemish polyphony through the Englishman William Byrd
, with Weelkes' own fascination with Italian music, especially the rich text-painting and daring chromaticism of Marenzio
. Other characteristic traits include embedded musical contrasts, such as those in O care, thou wilt despatch me; the brilliant sonorities of Thule, the period of Cosmography; and the careful structural constructs found in his contribution to Morley
's volume of Orianna madrigals: As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending.
Weelkes' long tenure serving the Church yielded a rich (though lesser-known) harvest of liturgical compositions. He produced both "Full" and "Verse" anthems, the latter involving passages written for soloists. The Verse Anthems afforded him more room for text-sensitivity, in addition to being more practically suited to a smaller, provincial choir. However, the fullness of his textures brings a note of brilliance and grandeur to the Full Anthems, such as his Hosanna to the Son of David. He also wrote 10 complete Anglican Services, more restrained (and again practical) in style, the mark of a conscientious, if sometimes ill-behaved, church musician. These Services often demonstrate deep structural relationships between the various canticles and even contain motivic ties to related anthems.