The gee-whiz factor is strong here: the Gentlemen of HM Chapel Royal, Hampton Court Palace (this palace is the one where Henry VIII learned of Catherine Howard's adultery and said, "Off with her head!") perform music by Thomas Tallis, who was himself a member of this choir in his earlier years. The release is especially welcome, for this superb small choir had not been heard on recordings for some years before being picked up by the Resonus label (which plans further recordings). The album works quite well as a historical re-creation: the size of 14 singers is probably right, for the chapel, though vaulted, does not have a large floor footprint. The current Gentlemen and boys sing two voices to a part and manage this difficult configuration beautifully, with the very slight disjunction between the two singers adding a distinctive texture to the vocal lines. Beyond this, the album is a fine survey of the Latin-language, Catholic music of Tallis, which is not so often heard except for the freak 40-part motet Spem in alium. Tallis worked during the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary as well as the Protestant Henry VIII and Edward VI, and the pragmatic Elizabeth I. He was himself Catholic but adapted his style effectively as the winds changed. At the center of the program here are two mass settings, very different from one another. The Missa Puer natus est nobis, although including only a Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei, is a large-scale piece of free polyphony in the older British style, while the Mass for Four Voices, mostly homophonic, is a simpler and more direct work that shows the unmistakable influence of Protestant musical styles. (Sample the opening "Gloria" for an idea.) The big motets included in the program are also substantial polyphonic pieces. Resonus, working in the Chapel Royal itself, contributes fine, clear sound. A superior Tallis release.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Suscipe quaeso Domine|
|Missa Puer natus est nobis|
|Mass for Four Voices|