Eternal Tallis

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Eternal Tallis is part of a series of "Eternal" discs from Naxos that repackage some of their recordings for marketing at the classical/new age crossover juncture, with only the briefest explanation of who the composer was and what the music is all about. The Tallis item is the only Renaissance release in the set at this writing, and none is devoted to chant, which is the usual material used for efforts of this kind; the rest of the series takes up the monumental meditations of contemporary composers like Vaughan Williams. Does Tallis work in this context? On one hand, presenting his music in this way does more violence to it than it would to Vaughan Williams: he was writing music for specific situations, with specific details to match, and homogenizing it can't help but dilute its impact. On the other hand, there is an aspect of Tallis, and of any High Renaissance polyphony, that is about pure texture, and in that respect the program is nicely set up. The 40-part motet Spem in alium is at the center, with the effect of drawing the listener deeply into a web of sound, gradually released by the subsequent music. Shifts in sonic environment could damage a project of this kind, but the program is broken up with instrumental pieces at the junctures where this might become a problem. If the sound of a cappella choral music puts you in a meditative frame of mind, give this disc a try; Tallis, an English composer of the sixteenth century who wrote in both English and Latin (he had to, since he had to please whoever was in control at the time), is renowned for the clarity and spaciousness of his choral music, and this disc gives you a sample of it.

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