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Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c.1525-1594)
Live in Rome - Celebrating Palestrina’s 400th Anniversary
Surge, illuminare [3:16]
Missa Papæ Marcelli [33:02]
Stabat Mater [10:01]
Alma Redemptoris Mater [3:33]
Magnificat primi toni (8 voices) [8:40]
Nunc Dimitis (8 voices) [4:06]
Missa Brevis [21:29] – Audio only
Missa Assumpta est Maria [29:51] – Audio only
Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652)
Miserere [13:52]
The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips
Deborah Roberts (soprano) (in Allegri’s Miserere)
Filmed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, 2-3 February 1994
Audio tracks: Palestrina Missa Brevis rec. in Merton College, Oxford (undated) & Missa Assumpta est Maria in Salle Church, Norfolk, UK (undated) PAL
(also available as GIMDN 904 in NTSC format)
4:3 video, stereo and Dolby surround sound.
GIMELL GIMDP 903 [81:34 + 51:20] 


Experience Classicsonline

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 story. 

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 PalestrinaMissa 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. 

Brian Wilson 



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