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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


Thomas TALLIS (c.1505 - 1585)
The Complete Works, Volume 5

Music for the Divine Office - 2
Respond: Audivi vocem de coelo (4vv) [3’29]
Respond: Candidi facti sunt (5vv) [4’32]
Respond: Honor virtus et potestas (5vv) [5’49]
Respond: Homo quidam fecit coenam (5vv) [5’05]
Hymn: Te lucis ante terminum (ferial) (5vv) [1’35]
Hymn: Te lucis ante terminum (festal) (5vv) [2’07]
Antiphon: Natus est nobis hodie [0’52]
Hymn: Veni redemptor gentium [7’35]
Hymn: Jam lucis orto sidere [4’04]
Hymn: Ecce tempus idoneum [4’12]
Hymn: Ex more docti mistico [7’13]
Antiphon: Clarifica me pater [4’33]
Organ: Clarifica me pater II [1’03]
Organ: Clarifica me pater III [1’10]
Hymn: Iste confessor [5’05]
Alleluia: per te Dei genitrix [5’01]
Offertory: Felix namque II [12’29]
Chapelle du Roi/Alastair Dixon
Andrew Benson-Wilson (Organ)
Recorded at St. Jude’s, Hampstead, London on 12-14 October 1998 (Nos. 1-6), and at the Chapel, Knole House, Kent on 23-24 May1999 (Nos. 7-18)
SIGNUM SIGCD016 [77’53]
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The fifth volume of the works of Tallis is devoted to polyphonic hymns and responds not included in Volume 4, and is completed by Tallis’s liturgical organ music. There are five hymns and three antiphons for the Divine Office, an Alleluia for the Lady Mass and an extended setting of the offertory Felix namque for organ only.

As before with these forces the performances are exemplary, indeed the choral singing is the best I have heard in this series; there is still a suspicion of "hootiness" from the alto parts, but otherwise the balance and standard are everything one could wish. The first six items are sung by four- or five-part choir where the sopranos are notable for the purity of their tone. As before, the diction is very good, the ambience helps, and above all the ensemble and attack could not be bettered. Comparing Audivi vocem and Te lucis ante terminum I with Jeremy Summerly’s Oxford Camerata on Naxos (8.550576) who sing a semitone lower, I am afraid the differences are cruelly exposed. The Oxford group’s entries at times seem hesitant, and they flatten by a further semitone in the first piece. Also the plainchant is sung by the upper voices, which strikes a false note. The Theatre of Voices on Harmonia Mundi HMU 907154 make a better impression with Te lucis ante terminum II, at the same pitch as the Chapelle du Roi, but again theirs is a larger choir, so the performances sound smoother. I am not sure I like this approach, the bite of the smaller forces is missing.

The twelve liturgical settings are sung by male voices, partly as plainchant or otherwise as faburdens (which verses were composed by Dr. John Caldwell, who also wrote the booklet entries on this section). The difficulty encountered was that a lot of the original keyboard music has been lost, and a fair amount of reconstruction has been necessary. Needless to say, this has been done in the most tasteful and scholarly manner and the reasons and arguments for the presentation are well explained in the booklet. The Chapel at Knole House has been chosen for the recording as it has possibly the oldest playable organ in England, and is thought to have been built around the 1620s. Certainly its age is beginning to show and the registration is very limited. Pedalling is needed for the bellows, and presumably a knee lever for the volume. The effect is probably as near as one will get to the sound that Tallis knew, but in longer pieces such as the Offertory Felix namque the sound and extravagant ornamentation becomes somewhat unrelieved by its sameness. This however is not the fault of the organist, Andrew Benson-Wilson, who gets excellent results. From his notes in the booklet it sounds as if several difficulties were encountered!

The research and presentation of the items is excellent and the booklet is a mine of information both on the music and the performances. My criticism remains that the numbers of voices in any particular item is not shown, and there is also a glaring misprint on the booklet cover of "Liturical"!(sic). These apart the whole is better than the production of its parts and keeps up the high standards of the previous volumes. More is eagerly awaited.


John Portwood

 


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Audivi vocem de coelo

Candidi facti sunt

Honor virtus et potestas

Homo quidam fecit coenam

Te lucis ante terminum (ferial)

Te lucis ante terminum (festal)

Natus est nobis hodie

Veni redemptor gentium

Jam lucis orto sidere

Ecce tempus idoneum

Ex more docti mistico

Clarifica me pater

Clarifica me pater (II)

Clarifica me pater (III)

Gloria tibi trinitas

Iste confessor

Alleluia: per te Dei genitrix

Felix namque (II)




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