John France made this recording a MusicWeb Recording of the
Month back in 2004 (see review),
so why am I re-reviewing it and awarding it the same accolade?
My original intention was simply to give an honourable
mention to the audio equivalent (CDGIM994) in my December, 2008,
Download Roundup, and I shall be doing exactly that. Having
been experiencing serious problems with my mobile ‘broadband’
connection for over a month, I asked Gimell to send me the DVD
as a backup in case I should be unable to download the lossless
version of the audio recording. In the event the lossless version
would have taken too long – my provider’s fault, not Gimell’s,
I hasten to add – but my system limped through a download of
the 320k mp3 version which, while very adequate – I’m playing
it, in fact, as I write this review – doesn’t tell the full
I’m very grateful to Gimell for supplying the DVD
because it provides the extra dimension that a CD can’t offer
– not only do we get a greater sense of occasion from a recording
thankfully free from visual gimmickry, we also have the option
of seeing some of the artwork in Santa Maria Maggiore.
I’ll start with the review of the download which
appears in the December Roundup:
‘Last month I recommended the download version
of The Tallis Scholars’ Live in Oxford recording. This
month I’m following that up with an even stronger recommendation
of their Live in Rome recording, made in 1994, the year
of the quatercentenary of Palestrina’s death (CDGIM994). The
programme is mostly Palestrina – Missa Papæ Marcelli,
Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and Stabat Mater
– with Allegri’s Miserere as an added attraction.
Carrying coals to Newcastle this may be, but the result is excellent.
All that’s missing is a pictorial record of the event, provided
by the DVD equivalent ...’.
Actually, I’d forgotten that there’s one other
advantage to the DVD version, in the form of audio-only versions
of two other Palestrina Masses, the Missa Brevis and
Missa Assumpta est Maria, which is slightly irritating
if you already possess CDGIM204, a 2-for-1 bargain set on which
these works are coupled with a different performance by the
Scholars of the Missa Papæ Marcelli, the Missa sicut
lilium inter spineas, etc.
Reservations? Well, the recording was made as long
ago as 1994 and in 4:3 format. You may find that the patterning
on the ceiling of the basilica shimmers a little more than you
are used to with more recent recordings, but otherwise it comes
up looking well in its DVD incarnation, especially if you have
an HD-ready television and your DVD player can cope with 1080p
upscaling. (You’ll need an hdmi connection and lead for this.)
Played on a 16:9 screen in Wide Zoom format, you’ll lose a small
amount of the picture at top and bottom but the results will
otherwise be very satisfactory.
The sound will be limited by your receiver, unless
you link your DVD player to your audio system – I have a separate
DVD player for this – in which case the sound will be excellent.
I suppose that I ought to prefer the authentic
version of Allegri’s Miserere, without all the accretions
which it has collected over the centuries, but I can’t bring
myself to criticise when the florid version is as well performed
as it is here – an account more than worthy to stand beside
the classic King’s College, Cambridge, version. JF called it
‘stunning’ and I must agree whole-heartedly.
Finally I should add that some reviewers were put
off by the audience and their applause, which bothered me not
a jot – it adds to the sense of occasion and the audience are
as quiet as the proverbial church mice during the singing.
Buy the CD or download it by all means, and I’m
sure you won’t regret it. Go one better and get the DVD and
you’ll do better still. Whichever you choose, you’ll have music
to treasure in performances which do it the fullest justice.