The Tallis Scholars

Tudor Church Music, Vol. 2

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Gimell's two-disc set The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Church Music, Vol. 2, is part of a program in which the Tallis Scholars appear to be consolidating their earlier albums into more efficiently arranged packages at a slightly lower price point than has been their wont. This is a good thing; as by virtue of the survival rate of the renaissance composers in which they specialize, certain discs tended to be short, and these regrouped issues deliver more bang for one's buck.

This set, issued as a companion to The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Church Music, Vol. 1, includes on its first disc the whole of a 1989 release devoted to John Sheppard, Media vita, along with Sheppard's entry from the 1993 disc Western Wind Masses. The second combines three Tallis motets from the album Thomas Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah with the whole of a disc devoted to music of Robert White, one of the best discs the Tallis Scholars ever made, devoted to a composer then completely unknown. That has always been one of the group's strong points: a comprehensive grasp of English polyphony led not only to exploring the works of Tallis in more depth than anyone before, but also into significant areas of undervalued repertoire. Curiously, this volume and its companion are issued as "marking the 500th anniversary of the coronation of King Henry VIII on June 24th, 1509," no doubt a dominant figure in the Tudor world, though one personally responsible for the destruction of the majority of Tudor church music of the Latin variety. However, the Tallis Scholars are among the most characteristic and skilled interpreters of what is left of this repertoire: pristine soprano voices sail skyward with absolutely correct pitches, lower voices provide ballast and negotiate the difficult ensemble passages below, providing this music with the almost orchestral-sounding body it needs. Gimell's recordings, made in English churches, are carefully and artfully balanced, and even though some recordings stretch back into the late '80s, and therefore the early digital era, there remains nothing substandard about them. If one likes the English renaissance, or even just wants to give it a try, one can hardly go wrong with a disc like The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Church Music, Vol. 2.

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