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Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
The Complete Works - Volume 8

Lamentations of Jeremiah I [7'48"]
Lamentations of Jeremiah II [12'20"]
Wipe away my sins [5'17"]; (from Absterge Domine)
Forgive me, Lord, my sin [5'39"] (from Absterge Domine)
Blessed are those that be undefiled [4'16"]
Arise, O Lord, and hear [2'23"] (from Salvator Mundi I)
With all our hearts [2'29"] (from Salvator Mundi I)
I call and cry to thee [3'05"] (from an untitled instrumental Fantasia)
O sacred and holy banquet [3'06"] (from an untitled instrumental Fantasia)
When Jesus went into Simon the Pharisee's house [2'26"] (From Salvator mundi II)
Blessed be thy name [2'21"] (from Mihi autem nimis)
O Praise the Lord II [2'33"] (from O salutaris hostis)
Sing and glorify heaven's high majesty [9'36"] (from Spem in alium)
Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon
Recorded at All Hallows' Church, Gospel Oak, 24-27 September 2002 DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD036 [63'22"]

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In this, the penultimate volume of the Chapelle du Roi's performance of Tallis's works, the high standard of the previous volumes is more than maintained. From an admirably performed though restrained rendering of the Lamentations through to a most interesting and well sung collection of the anthems, given English words, these are excellent and noteworthy additions to the complete works of a most intriguing composer of Tudor music. The music here dates from a fascinating period in the development of the English church, with latin masses and motets being supplanted by English canticles and anthems. No album I have come across before has illustrated this so well.

But first to the Lamentations; these are well-known works of Tallis, and were also the subject of pieces by many other composers. Latin texts were used, preceded by the letters of the alphabet in the Hebrew, in the various verses. I had long possessed and enjoyed the version by the Deller Consort, both on LP and then on CD (Vanguard 08.2026 71 - nla). At the time the Deller version offered singing that no-one else could emulate, particularly in this style of music; nowadays, it is much more performed, thank goodness. The Chapelle du Roi have shown their expertise and love for the Tallis settings in the previous discs. They do not fail here to give a most professional though restrained performance. At times I should have liked a bit more "beef" in the singing, but overall it is well measured and beautifully sung. Of the other and generally comparable versions, The Theatre of Voices under Paul Hilliard (Harmonia Mundi HMU907154) take 21'28", and The King's Singers (RCA 09026 68004-2) are the quickest (though still smooth) in 19'46". All give eminent and individual concerts. I should not like to choose a "favourite".

The other items on the disc are quite a revelation. After the Reformation, Latin texts were definitely persona non grata in the Establishment. Thus, English words were substituted and here in Tallis's works are termed contrafacta. Many, if not most, were written after Tallis's demise and can make the language sound stilted. I have annotated above the Latin motets to which the English words were applied (these are not shown on the cover, but are mentioned in the excellent booklet, written by John Moorhen). In many ways, this disc is a companion of Volume 7 where the Latin versions of these anthems are given as motets. Whichever preferences one may have, the singing is marvellous, the ambience ideal. and the whole production lives up to the standard of its predecessors. Sing and glorify is the only instance with which one could take issue, being the English version of Spem in alium. Here the sound is "muddied", but with 40 parts this is almost inevitable.

This series is approaching its end, and while one looks forward to the final discs, one cannot help regretting the termination of such excellent performances. Leaving aside Byrd (being well served by The Cardinall's Musick) there is a crying need for a library of the rich treasury available in more Tudor music, particularly madrigals. Would some enterprising company be prepared to give either of these two very accomplished groups a carte blanche for, say, the works of Morley for a beginning?

John Portwood

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