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Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Jesu salvator saeculi [4:14]
Gaude gloriosa [17:20]
Sermone blando angelus [5:16]
Magnificat [10:28]
Nunc dimittis 3:15]
Mihi autem nimis [2:28]
Absterge Domine [5:49]
Derelinquat [3:55]
Loquebantur varii linguis [3:58]
Suscipe quaeso Domine [9:05]
O nata lux [1:57]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
Recorded in Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 12-14 January 2005
HYPERION CDA67548 [69.15]

Listening to Tallis is, for me, like coming home or entering a sanctuary. Many excellent discs offer a good range of this glorious, uplifting music. Hyperion has now added another to the collection, with Andrew Carwood directing the outstanding Cardinal’s Musick.

Tallis lived during a time of tremendous religious upheaval. The succession from Henry VIII to Edward VI, Edward to Mary Tudor and Mary to Elizabeth meant changes from Catholic to Protestant, and back again with Mary, before Elizabeth’s "third way" – a more accepting and moderate form of Protestantism. Tallis lived through all of this and, remarkably enough, managed to please each monarch in turn. Although very difficult to date accurately, the pieces on this disc are thought to cover the range from later on in Henry VIII’s reign (the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis) to Elizabeth (Derelinquat impius).

A number of the works featured here have been taken from the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae – a volume of Latin motets published by jointly by Tallis and Byrd and containing seventeen pieces by each composer. It is suggested that the total number of 34 pieces was to recognize the number of years that Elizabeth had ruled.

The disc opens with the beautiful Jesu salvator saeculi, a hymn for use at Compline, which is followed by Gaude gloriosa, the most substantial work on the disc - a 6-voice votive antiphon. This hymn to the Virgin Mary is probably a later work recalling an earlier style as used by composers such as Fayrfax and Ludford. It is a highly accomplished and concise work despite its rather rambling text. It is very well structured and assured, and Carwood teases out the beautiful lines admirably.

A hymn for use at Lauds follows - Sermone blando angelus, before a 5-part Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, which typically alternate chant and polyphony but lack a cantus firmus. The peaceful Mihi autem nimis sets the antiphon of the introit for the Feast of the Apostles, and is followed by the striking Absterge domine. Derelinquat impius is thought to be one of Tallis’s last compositions on account of its unusual and innovative chord progressions and harmonies and is indeed a wonderful and exciting work. The motet for Pentecost, Loquebantur variis linguis ensues, a polyphonic responsory with the cantus firmus in the tenor part while the other 6 parts intertwine around it.

The 7-voice Suscipe quaeso domine is an interesting piece in its highly personal and intense response to the text. It is speculated that the text could have been written for, and the piece performed at, the ceremony when the Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary, Cardinal Pole, absolved England from her division.

The disc concludes with the brief but gorgeous motet O nata lux, which takes two verses from the hymn at Lauds on the Feast of Configuration.

The Cardinall’s Musick – a group specialising in music of the English Renaissance – excel themselves here. The singing is radiant, warm and luminous with the individual winding strands of voices clear and concise. I heartily recommend this disc.

Em Marshall



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