Christopher Tye was born in the same year as Thomas Tallis, 1505, and had a similar career, writing choral music for both Catholic and Anglican rulers as the poliitcal situation required. Both composers clearly came from the same stylistic universe, but it's striking how different the effects their music can make. Tye was marvelously described by one writer of the time as "peevish and humoursome," and that rough-edged quality shows up in his music. Where Tallis borrowed from the balanced structures of Continental contrapuntists, Tye's music harks back to the free lines of the English 15th century. The two large Catholic masses here are considered Tye's masterpieces, but to get a quick idea of the contrast with Tallis sample the Easter anthem Christ Rising (track 11), and compare it with the much soberer English pieces of Tallis that are in general circulation. In the Missa Euge bone and the Western Wynde Mass (the latter one of several masses based on a fairly raunchy popular song), Tye revels in dramatic contrasts of voice blocks and in lines that collide in harmonic clashes and then make their way into consonance again. You may opt for one of the newer approaches to English Renaissance choral music, and those approaches might bring out this startling quality in Tye's music better. But there's no denying that the Choir of Westminster Abbey is in fine form here, that director James O'Donnell's readings are fully idiomatic, and that Hyperion's engineering work (apparently in the Abbey itself) is unusually good. If you've heard only Tallis from this era, give Tye a shot.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Missa Euge bone (6vv)|
|Western Wynde Mass (4vv)|