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THE TALLIS SCHOLARS AT 30: SOME DOWNLOAD RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE GIMELL CATALOGUE

Brian Wilson

This seemed like a good time to do for the Gimell download catalogue what I recently did in recommending my choice of thirty downloads from the Hyperion catalogue - here. What began as a ‘top 30’ ended as a survey of the complete catalogue.

This article should be read in conjunction with John Quinn’s recent interview with Peter Phillips and Steve Smith. Where I haven’t commented on the quality of the performance and/or recording, that is simply because it would be boring to keep repeating how good the standard of both is throughout. I sometimes mention alternatives by other prestigious groups such as The Sixteen and rising stars such as the Brabant Ensemble, but these are usually best regarded as supplementary to the Tallis Scholars on Gimell.

I hope that the following will be of equal interest and value to those who have not yet stuck their toes in the download water, since what I have to say applies equally to the equivalent Gimell CDs and DVDs, not all of which have been reviewed here on MWI. Beginners will, however, find the Gimell download engine one of the smoothest to operate.

All the recordings were made by The Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Phillips. I’ve started with Sarum Chant, followed by the 2-for-1 bargain sets, indicating where these overlap with some of the single CDs, then dealt with the other music mainly in chronological order.

All the downloads mentioned here are available in 320 kbps mp3 and wma or flac lossless format. Some of the more recent are available, where indicated, as better-than-CD 24-bit recordings, some even in 5.1 surround sound. Make sure that your system can deal with 24-bit recordings; otherwise go for the ‘ordinary’ 16-bit CD quality. If you wish to try the ‘Super’ versions, make sure that your system can cope with 24-bit/96kHz – Squeezebox, for example, won’t. Gimell offer test files. In all the cases where I have been able to make comparisons, I have found the lossless downloads to be in no way inferior to the CDs and, where I have tried them, the mp3s are little inferior. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can try all these recordings before purchase and, often, compare rival versions.

Texts and translations are always included as pdf documents.

SARUM CHANT
Missa in gallicantu [39:00]; Christe Redemptor omnium [3:44]; Veni, Redemptor gentium [4:30]; Salvator mundi, Domine [2:30]; A solis ortus cardine [4:57]
CDGIM017 [54:50] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

A valuable collection of plainsong from the Sarum or Salisbury rite, the most commonly employed use in late medieval England. Be aware, however, that the Missa in gallicantu, or ‘cockcrow’ Mass for Christmas is duplicated on CDGIM202, Christmas with the Tallis Scholars (below).

The Essential Tallis Scholars
Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652) Miserere* [12:28]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548–1611) Ave Maria for double choir [4:49]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Sicut lilium I [4:45]
JOSQUIN des Prés (c.1440-1521) Præter rerum seriem [7:21]
Thomas CRECQUILLON (c.1505/10-1557)
Pater peccavi [8:39]
Jacob CLEMENS Non Papa (c.1510-c.1555) Ego flos campi [4:09]
Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Tota pulchra es [8:57]
Cipriano de RORE (c.1515-c.1565) Descendi in hortum meum [5:26]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594) Alma Redemptoris Mater [3:07]; Salve Regina [3:58]; Ave Regina cælorum [3.52]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1450-c.1520) Missa Et ecce terræ motus: Gloria [9:36]
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-c.1559) Media vita [21:34]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) In manus tuas [2:11]; O nata lux [2:05]; Audivi vocem [4:11]
Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574) Exaudiat te Dominus [9:46]
William CORNYSH (d.1523) Ah, Robin [2:31]; Salve regina [13:51]
William BYRD (1543-1623) Mass for 5 voices [22:23] - rec. 1980-1998. AAD*/DDD.
CDGIM201 [2 CDs for the price of one: 156:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless.

- See review by Michael Cookson.

This looks as if it should be the ideal place to begin and, to some extent, it is. I have just two reservations: buy this two-for-one budget-price set and you’ll want some – probably all – of the constituent CDs. For my taste, too, there is too much of a mixture of style, though all the performances are excellent and the recordings remarkably consistent over such a long period of time.

The earliest recording here, that of the Allegri, comes from the Tallis Scholars’ first recording, originally released on the Classics for Pleasure label and it sets the tone for 2½ hours of wonderful music, wonderfully presented. It also makes my point about wanting more – you may well find yourself turning next to GIMSE401 (below) for the remainder of that programme, and/or one or more of their other, later recordings of the same work. Remember that all the tracks are separately priced; if you buy other Gimell recordings but find yourself missing some of the items here, you can always download them separately.

Renaissance Giants
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Spem in alium [9:58]
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545) Western Wind Mass [32.18]
Josquin DES PRÉS (c.1440-1521) Missa Pange lingua [29:47]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Missa Brevis [21:38]
William BYRD (1543-1623) Mass for four voices [22:06]
Tomás Luis da VICTORIA (1548-1611) Requiem [35:26]
rec. Merton College Chapel, Oxford,1984-1986; Salle Church, Norfolk,1993; St.John, Hackney, London, 1987. DDD.
CDGIM207 [2 CDs for the price of one: 72:03 + 79:10] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

- See review by Dominy Clements.

If you have bought and liked – and how could you not? – The Essential Tallis Scholars, this second twofer could well be your next stop. To Byrd’s 5-part Mass on the earlier programme, it adds an equally recommendable version of its 4-part sibling – but here’s the rub again; you will also want the 3-part Mass to complete the set, which will mean duplicating the two Masses which you already have. You could obtain the 3-part Mass from other performers, but the three Masses usually come together these days. In every other respect, this is a truly worthwhile bargain: the pieces here are more substantial than on CDGIM201, the performances and recording once again wonderful, and the price is right.

The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Music: Volume 1
John BROWNE (d.1505)
Salve regina I [13:23]; Stabat iuxta [12:25]; Stabat mater [15:56]; O regina mundi clara [13:55]; O Maria salvatoris [15:39]
William CORNYSH (d.1523) Gaude virgo mater Christi [5:30]
John TAVERNER (c.1490-1545) Western Wind Mass [32:23]
William CORNYSH Salve regina [13:53]; Ave Maria, mater Dei [3:13]
Christopher TYE (c.1505-c.1573) Western Wind Mass [27:19]
rec. Salle Church, Norfolk, 1988), 1993, 2005. DDD.
CDGIM209 [2 CDs for the price of one: 76:42 + 76:50] - from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

The Tallis Scholars Sing Tudor Music: Volume 2
John SHEPPARD (c.1515-1558)
Media vita [21:45]; Christe redemptor omnium [4:46];
Reges Tharsis [5:04]; Sacris solemniis [7:32]; In manus tuas I [3:28]; In manus tuas II [2:56];
In manus tuas III [2:54]; Verbum caro [6:57]; Western Wind Mass [20:33]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) In ieiunio et fletu [4:44]; O salutaris hostia [3:02]; O nata lux [2:06]
Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574)Magnificat [14:48]; Portio mea [7:15]; Regina cæli [3:57]; Christe, qui lux es III [4:55]; Christe, qui lux es IV [5:08]; Exaudiat te Dominus [9:46]; Lamentations (5vv.) [22:05]
rec. Salle Church, Norfolk, 1989, 1992 , 1993, 1995. DDD.
CDGIM 210 [2 CDs for the price of one: 75:58 + 77:48] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

John BROWNE Music from the Eton Choirbook
CDGIM036 – the entire contents of this recording are included on CDGIM209 (above)

John SHEPPARD Media vita
CDGIM016 – the entire contents of this recording are included on CDGIM209 (above)

Robert WHITE Tudor Church Music
CDGIM030 – the entire contents of this recording are included on CDGIM210 (above)

When I made CDGIM209 and CDGIM210 jointly Bargain of the Month – see review – I was tempted to write that I didn’t know of a greater bargain among recordings of 16th-century English music. I didn’t say that, because I thought that I might be tempting providence and, since then, Hyperion’s 10-CD set of recordings of this repertoire by The Sixteen has at least rivalled it. (CDS44401/10, Bargain of the Month – see review and review). Rivalled, but not superseded, because there is nothing by Tallis in that Hyperion set, as there is here. There is nothing by Byrd in either set, but Gimell repair the omission with another twofer, The Tallis Scholars Sing Byrd (see below).

You will still need to worry about duplicating some of the music here: Volume 1, for example, includes the whole of the contents of Gimell’s CD of the music of Browne but only three works from his near-contemporary Cornysh of the nine included on CDGIM014. The Cornysh Salve Regina is duplicated from CDGIM201, which also contains Ah Robin, but that still leaves five pieces, including his very affective settings of Woefully arrayed and Stabat Mater. You can purchase those two pieces separately, but I shall suggest below that you should also buy the whole Cornysh CD.

The second volume contains the whole contents of Sheppard’s music on CDGIM016 and of the Gimell recording of White’s music (CDGIM030), so, once again, there is no need to purchase those CDs, though they remain in the catalogue. There is a warning to this effect on the Gimell website, but none to warn that the contents of CDGIM027, the Western Wind Masses of Taverner, Tye and Sheppard are also duplicated on CDGIM209 (Taverner and Tye) and CDGIM210 (Sheppard).

The representation on volume 2 of the composer after whom the Tallis Scholars were named may seem sketchy, but what we are offered here is only really a taster for yet another 2-CD set, The Tallis Scholars Sing Tallis (see below).

William CORNYSH (d.1523)
Salve regina [13:53]; Ave Maria, mater Dei [3:10]; Gaude virgo mater Christi [5:24]; Magnificat [12:17]; Ah, Robin [2:27]; Adieu, adieu, my heartes lust [1:45]; Adieu, courage [0:58]; Woefully arrayed [9:07]; Stabat mater [15:42]
CDGIM014 [65.00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

I wrote about this recording at some length in my July 2009 Download Roundup so, perhaps, you will excuse me for partly rehashing some of what I said then. I predicted that those who fell in love with William Cornysh’s music on CDGIM209 would want to obtain the complete programme from which several items were taken. If you resisted then, I apologise to your financial adviser for placing further temptation in your way.

Three substantial works are included on CDGIM209, and two more on CDGIM203.

Yet even if you have both these compilations, CDGIM014 is worth having for the sake of the Magnificat, with alternate verses in plainsong and polyphony, and the hauntingly beautiful Woefully arrayed and Stabat mater. You could purchase these three tracks separately – but that would cost within pence the same as the whole CD.

If you really wish to economise, purchase Alto’s recent reissue of the greater part of two Saga recordings of music for Henry VII and Henry VIII (ALC1015, The Hilliard Ensemble and New London Consort - see review), a CD which offers Woefully arrayed and Ah, Robin along with Cornysh’s Jolly rutterkin and other music from the period. The review by Michael Greenhalgh, who thought the CD offered ‘fine, well balanced performances’, contains a detailed and perceptive comparison of the Hilliards’ Woefully arrayed with The Tallis Scholars, to which I refer you. In fact, however, it’s better to regard the Alto CD as a useful and inexpensive supplement to the Gimell recordings rather than as a replacement for them.

The two Saga CDs from which the Alto recording derives still sound perfectly acceptable and they continue to receive an outing in my CD player, but the Gimell performances and recording are preferable. Please see also my January 2010 Download Roundup for a recording by Christ Church Cathedral Choir of music from the Eton Choirbook (AV2167).

John TAVERNER (c.1490–1545)
Western Wind Mass [32:14]; ‘Leroy’ Kyrie [3:48]; Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas [35:03]; Dum transisset Sabbatum [7:17] – rec.1984 and 1993. DDD.
CDGIM004 [79:19] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Gimell have turned the original rather short CD with this catalogue number into a full-length programme with the addition of the Western Wind Mass, but the advantage of its inclusion is somewhat diminished by their making it available also on CDGIM207 (above) and CDGIM209 (above), both budget price 2-CD sets. The Western Wind Mass is also available on CDGIM027 (Three Western Wind Masses), which is itself duplicated on CDGIM209 and CDGIM210 (above). If you have followed my recommendation and purchased one or other of these twofers, you may prefer to go for the rival recording of the Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas by The Sixteen on the Hyperion Helios budget label (CDH55052, on CD, or mp3 or lossless download – one of my Hyperion Top 30). That, too, is rather short on playing time, but the brevity is reflected in the reduced download price of £4.99.

The Tallis Scholars Sing Josquin
Plainchant: Pange lingua [3.45]
JOSQUIN des Prés (c.1440–1521) Missa Pange lingua [29:41]; Missa La sol fa re mi [28:44]; Praeter rerum seriem [7:22]; Ave Maria (4vv) [5:29]
Anonymous chanson: L’homme armé [0:47];
JOSQUIN Missa L’homme armé super voces musicales [40:24]; Missa L’homme armé sexti toni [33:05]
- rec. 1986, 1989, 1994. DDD.
CDGIM206[149:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

This set offers a wonderful introduction to the music of Josquin, in earlier recordings. The Scholars have recently embarked on a new series of recordings of Josquin (CDGIM039 and 042, below).

NB the whole of JOSQUIN CDGIM019 (L’homme armé Masses) and CDGIM008 (Missa pange lingua and Missa la sol fa re mi) are included on CDGIM206 (above)

JOSQUIN des Prés Præter rerum seriem [7:27]
Cipriano de RORE (c.1515-c.1565) Missa Præter rerum seriem [29:28]
Infelix ego [12:15]; Parce mihi [11:09]; Ave Regina caelorum [5:56]; Descendi in hortum meum [5:35] - rec. St Peter and St Paul, Salle, Norfolk, UK, 1993. DDD.
CDGIM 029 [72:10] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Cipriano de RORE Mon petit cueur [5:16]; Plange quasi virgo [5:10]; Mia benigna fortuna [4:00]; Missa Præter rerum seriem [28:48]; Schiet’arbuscel [4:09]; Calami sonum ferentes [4:59]; Se ben il duol [4:32]; Dissimulare etiam sperasti [7:41]
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
HARMONIA MUNDI HMC90 1760 [64:34] – from emusic.com (mp3)

Both these recordings are so good that I’m reduced to noting trivialities, not least of which is that the Harmonia Mundi is deleted on CD – hopefully, to return at mid-price – and available only as a download from eMusic or Amazon. Please be aware, too, that the Tallis Scholars’ versions of the Josquin and de Rore Masses praeter rerum seriem are also included on twofers – Josquin on CDGIM206 (above) and de Rore on CDGIM211 (below).

As expected, The Tallis Scholars’ tempi are all slower than those of the Huelgas Ensemble, with the exception of the Kyrie where they are very similar and the Agnus Dei, taken only once on Gimell instead of the usual three-fold repetition, as on Harmonia. The couplings are very different and complementary. I wouldn’t want to be without the Josquin motet which opens the Gimell recording and is employed as the cantus firmus of the Mass – there would have been room to have included it on the Harmonia recording – but I equally wouldn’t wish not to have the wonderful setting of Dido’s verbal scourging of Æneas in Virgil’s words from Book IV of the Æneid, which ends the Harmonia recording.

Josquin des PRÉS Missa Sine Nomine [27:39]; Missa ad Fugam [31:30]
rec. Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 2007. DDD.
CDGIM039 [69:12]– from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

See my review (Recording of the Month) and review by Robert Hugill: ‘Admirers of the Tallis Scholars will definitely want [this disc]. Admirers of Josquin masses can buy [it] in the secure knowledge that they will be getting near perfection of execution’.

JOSQUIN des Prés Missa Malheur me bat [39:46]; Missa Fortuna desperata [35:41]
rec. Chapel of Merton College, 2008. DDD.
CDGIM042 [75:27] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

This CD is so good that it led me to change my mind about making the Chandos recording of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas the sole Download of the Month; I had to settle for giving them joint honours. (See my February 2009 Download Roundup, also my fuller review and review by Mark Sealey).

The Tallis Scholars sing Flemish Masters
Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Missa De Apostolis [29:14]
Johannes OCKEGHEM (c.1425-1497) Missa Au travail suis [21:08]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594) Missa Osculetur me for double choir [21:57]
Cipriano De RORE (c.1515-1565) Missa Præter rerum seriem [30:03]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-c.1520) Missa Et ecce terrae motus (The Earthquake Mass, in 12 parts) [46:59]
rec. Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 1989-1997. DDD.
CDGIM211 [2CDs for the price of one: 72:22 + 77:02] - from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

- See review by Robert Hugill (Bargain of the Month)

My only reservations when I made this Reissue of the Month in November 2009 (see review) concerned the loss of the shorter works which accompanied these masses in their original incarnations - a small price to pay for most listeners, when the playing time of the new set is so generous, the price so tempting, and a couple of those shorter works feature on The Essential Tallis Scholars (CDGIM201, above), but specialists will feel the loss, for example of the Brumel Lamentations and Magnificat secundi toni which complete CDGIM026. And, though the lossless download is excellent - I cannot imagine the physical CDs sounding any better - there are no 24-bit options for the new set, as there are for the Ockeghem in its full-price format on CDGIM035. (Please see below for this and other CDs from which this twofer has been extracted).

Plainchant Nigra sum [1.31]
Jean LHÉRITIER (c.1480–after 1552) Nigra sum (5vv) [5.07]
Gilles de Bins dit BINCHOIS(c.1400–1460) De plus en plus [4.03]
Johannes OCKEGHEM(c.1425-1497) Missa De plus en plus [34.19]
OCKEGHEM or BARGIGNANT (fl.c.1470) Au travail suis [4.38]
Johannes OCKEGHEM Missa Au travail suis [21:14]
rec. Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 1997. DDD.
CDGIM035 [64:21] – from Gimell on mp3, lossless and 24-bit Studio Master

Ockeghem may be less well known than, say, Josquin, and Lhéritier is but a shadowy name even to most connoisseurs, but these two masses certainly deserve a place in any collection of early renaissance music. As always, Gimell help by preceding each mass with the relevant work which inspired it. Be aware that the Missa de plus en plus is duplicated on CDGIM211 (above) though there are no 24-bit options for that set.

Gimell’s Studio Master 24-bit recording certainly presses all the right buttons in terms of sound quality and the performances are fully up to the standard we have come to expect. Whatever competition there may be from other younger ensembles, there will always be a place for performances of this standard from The Tallis Scholars. (See also my October 2009 Download Roundup)

Heinrich ISAAC (c.1450-1517) Missa de Apostolis [29:14]
Motets – Optime pastor [9:37]; Total pulchra es [8:56]; Regina cæli [6:12]; Resurrexi [8:40]; Virgo prudentissima [12:21]

The Tallis Scholars/Peter Phillips (rec. 1991. DDD)
CDGIM023 [74:50] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Isaac was highly thought of in his own day and, though his reputation has diminished since, this recording shows us why his contemporaries held him in high esteem. He’s certainly too good to be remembered only for short pieces such as his setting of Innspruck, ich muß dich lassen, the tune of which is surprisingly similar to Bach’s oft-used setting of O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. The performances and recording are fully commensurate with the high expectations encouraged by Gimell’s other recordings. Be aware that the Missa de apostolis is duplicated on CDGIM211.

Jacob OBRECHT (1457/8-1505) Missa Maria Zart [69:25] - rec. 1996. DDD
CDGIM032 [69:25] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Gary Higginson ended his recent review of Obrecht’s Missa de Sancto Donatiano, on Fineline Classical (FL72414) with some further recommendations of recordings of Obrecht’s music, two of which I’m very happy to endorse – the Gimell, as above, and Missa Caput, sung by Oxford Camerata on Naxos 8.553210. The Naxos recording is available from classicsonline (mp3) or passionato (mp3 or lossless); in each case, the mp3 download represents a small but useful saving over the CD, but the passionato lossless comes at much the same price as the physical product. The Gimell performance of this extraordinarily long Mass setting is excellent and the download first-class.

Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460–c.1520)
Missa Et ecce terrae motus The Earthquake Mass (in 12 parts) [47:06]; Lamentations [9:03]; Magnificat secundi toni [16:47] – rec.1992. DDD
CDGIM026 [72:56] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Antoine Brumel’s Missa Et ecce terræ motus is the only Mass which I know that is based on an earthquake, albeit that it’s the one recorded in the New Testament on the day of Jesus’s death. It’s no mere novelty work, especially when it’s as well performed as it is here. Brumel’s Lamentations and Magnificat secundi toni round off a most enjoyable and well-filled recording of music from that fascinating late-medieval/renaissance transitional period. The recording is very good and the booklet, with its striking cover, is excellent. The Gloria from the Mass is also available on The Essential Tallis Scholars (CDGIM201, above) and the complete Mass on CDGIM211 (above) but the Lamentations and Magnificat are also well worth hearing: you could download them separately if you have purchased CDGIM211.

The Brumel Lamentations are also contained on

Lamenta: The Lamentations of Jeremiah
Alfonso FERRABOSCO the
Elder (1534-1588) Lamentations 1 [9:59]
Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585) Lamentations I [8:45]; Lamentations II [13:15]
Antoine BRUMEL (c.1460-c.1520) Lamentations [9:05]
Robert WHITE (c.1538-1574) Lamentations (5vv) [21:55]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Lamentations for Holy Saturday (Lesson 3, 6vv) [9:46]
rec. Church of St Peter and St Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 1992-98. DDD.
CDGIM996 [72:45] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

I reviewed this so recently that I’ll refer you to what I wrote in my March 2010 Download Roundup. Let me remind you, however, that, with the exception of the Ferrabosco, these recordings all exist on other Gimell CDs, some on budget twofers – the Tallis on The Tallis Scholars sing Tallis (CDGIM203), the Palestrina on The Tallis Scholars sing Palestrina (CDGIM204) and the White on The Tallis Scholars sing Tudor Music 2 (CDGIM210). It is convenient to have the Lamentations music together in this fashion; the parent discs also contain other very valuable recordings, as in the case of Brumel’s Magnificat on CDGIM206 above, but downloading that work separately would solve the problem.

Nicolas GOMBERT (c.1495–c.1560) Magnificats with plainchant Antiphons
Antiphon [1.53]; Magnificat 1 Primi toni [11.29]; Antiphon [1.48]
Antiphon [0.42]; Magnificat 2 Secundi toni [11.09]; Antiphon [0.46]
Antiphon [0.32]; Magnificat 3 Tertii et octavi toni [12.20] Antiphon [0.37]
Antiphon [0.24]; Magnificat 4 Quarti toni [12.07]; Antiphon [0.38] – rec. 2001. DDD.
CDGIM037 [54:25] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

Antiphon [1.31]; Magnificat 5 Quinti toni [11.00]; Antiphon [1.22]
Antiphon [1.30]; Magnificat 6 Sexti et primi toni [12.56]; Antiphon [1.34]
Antiphon [1.30]; Magnificat 7 Septimi toni [10.58]; Antiphon [1.34]
Antiphon [0.45]; Magnificat 8 Octavi toni [12.45]; Antiphon [0.58] – rec. 2002. DDD.
CDGIM038 [58:23] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

The Vespers canticle Magnificat is preceded and followed in the Roman rite by an antiphon appropriate to the day and season in the liturgical year. A variety of antiphons are employed on these two CDs which together present settings in all eight tones. If eight Magnificats sounds like too much of a good thing, the employment of the different tones makes the programme varied.

There is a good Hyperion recording of music by Gombert (CDA67614, Brabant Ensemble), but that is one to move on to after these Gimell recordings – these CDs, which began Gombert’s modern rehabilitation, are the place to start, though the music contains what Peter Phillips describes in his excellent notes as striking discords.

Philippe VERDELOT( fl.1520–1550) Si bona suscepimus [6:58]
Cristóbal de MORALES (c.1500–1553) Missa Si bona suscepimus [40:59]
Thomas CRECQUILLON (c.1505/10–1557) Andreas Christi famulus [8:04] - rec. 2000. DDD.
CDGIM033 [56:01] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

This CD restores the reputation of two important but neglected composers. Morales was very highly regarded during his life and afterwards. He receives a walk-on part in several good recordings, as on the recent Coeperunt loqui (Cheltenham College Choir, Herald HAVPCD351 – see review), but there are still far too few, just a handful, devoted mainly or entirely to him.

The fact that Crecquillon is more than a name even to lovers of renaissance music is largely due to this recording and to Hyperion’s Brabant Ensemble 2004 recording of the Missa Mort m’a privé and other works (CDA67596 – see review); the latter would be a good next move after the Gimell. There are also two Hyperion recordings of Morales which are well worth having: Magnificat, Motets and Lamentations (Brabant Ensemble/Rice, CDA67694 – see review) and the Christmas Mass Quaeramus cum pastoribus on the budget Helios label (Westminster Cathedral/O’Donnell, CDH55276, Bargain of the Month – see review). It’s particularly interesting to hear the different style of the Westminster Choir in Morales.

Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1599)
Missa Surge propera [31:12]; Usquequo, Domine [5:24]; Ave Maria [4:15]; Hei mihi, Domine [4:21]; Surge propera [7:21]; Beata Dei genitrix [6:22]; Ave virgo sanctissima [3:57]; Regina caeli laetare [4:25]
rec. September 2004, Temple Church, London. DDD
CDGIM 040 [66:57] – from Gimell on CD, SACD (GIMSA540) , mp3, lossless and 24-bit

The performances of the music on this Guerrero recording are of the usual high Tallis Scholars quality and the recording is excellent. See review by Adam Binks (Recording of the Month): ‘From the opening of the Missa Surge propera, this recording does not disappoint and makes a substantial and welcome contribution to the Guerrero discography – a fantastic marriage of choir and repertoire’.

Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Missa Osculetur me [21:43]; Hodie completi sunt [5:03]; Timor et tremor [4:25]; Alma redemptoris mater [3:06]; Salve regina [3:56]; Ave regina cælorum [3:50]; Regina cæli [3:02] - rec. 1989. DDD
CDGIM018 [48:39] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Supplementary recommendation: La Quinta Essentia
Orlando LASSUS: Missa ‘Tous les regretz’; Thomas ASHEWELL: Missa ‘Ave Maria’; Giovanni PALESTRINA: Missa Ut re mi fa sol la
Huelgas Ensemble/Paul van Nevel
Harmonia Mundi HMC90 1922 [77:10] – from eMusic.

Two excellent recordings of music by Lassus, from both of which I derived great pleasure. The Harmonia Mundi coupling with Ashewell is particularly attractive and neatly complements – indeed, surpasses – the Christ Church recording of the latter’s music which I recently recommended. Listening again to music by Ashewell, the man who may have been Taverner’s teacher and predecessor at Cardinal College, I think I judged him a little harshly when I referred to his music as ‘workaday’; in fact, this Mass stands comparison with those first-rate early Tudor composers who were his successors.

The all-Lassus Gimell recording contains excellent performances of the calibre which the very name of the Tallis Scholars practically guarantees. My only reservation is that this CD now offers short value - it could benefit from the kind of reissue with extra music that Gimell have been giving to some of their other early recordings – and, of course, it duplicates Missa osculetur me from CDGIM211. The Harmonia Mundi recording is much more generous in terms of time, but the eMusic download comes without texts and notes; full documentation to print out with the Gimell, as usual.

Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis
: Spem in alium [9:59]; Sancte Deus [5:15]; Salvator mundi, salva nos I [2:21]; Salvator mundi, salva nos II [2:35]; Gaude gloriosa [16:45]; Miserere nostri [2:31]; Loquebantur variis linguis [3:42]; If ye love me [2:07]; Hear the voice and prayer [3:02]; A new commandment [2:42]; O Lord, give thy Holy Spirit [2:17]; Purge me, O Lord [1:43]; Verily, verily I say unto you [1:42]; Remember not, O Lord God [3:45]; Tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter [7:53]; O Lord, in thee is all my trust [2:56]; Christ rising again [4:35]; Blessed are those that be undefiled [3:46]; Lamentations of Jeremiah I [8:56]; Lamentations of Jeremiah II [13:13]; Absterge Domine [6:13]; O sacrum convivium [3:39]; In manus tuas [2:10]; Salve intemerata [17:20]; Magnificat (4vv) [11:57]; Ave Dei patris filia [16:20]
CDGIM203 [2 CDs for the price of one: 219:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless.

The Tallis Scholars are not limited to the music of their namesake, but their performances of his music are something special. Compare their versions of the two sets of Lamentations with the classic King’s College, Cambridge accounts under David Willcocks on a Decca 2-CD set (455 0292) and the difference is immediately apparent: Peter Phillips never rushes things, allowing us plenty of time to perceive the beauty and, in this case, the sorrowfulness of the music, but his tempi are noticeably faster than those of Willcocks. Don’t write the King’s versions off – there is music here which is not included on the Gimell and these were model performances for their time – but the Gimell set is much more satisfying.

This 2-CD set contains the whole of CDGIM006: Spem in alium, and all but one short piece from CDGIM007: The Complete English Anthems. The final eight items come from CDGIM025: Lamentations of Jeremiah. The one missing piece of English music, Out of the deep, runs for just 1:48 and can be downloaded separately for just £0.99. The three short items omitted from CDGIM025 are also available separately for £0.99 each.

If you are looking for absolute completeness, however, you might be better served by Chapelle du Roi under Alistair Dixon on Signum and available as downloads from classicsonline and, slightly less expensively, from passionato (both 320k mp3). The super-budget-price 2-CD set extracted from Chapelle du Roi’s recordings, which I made Recording of the Month some time ago – see review – remains available on Regis RRC2090 or Portrait PLC2101 – it’s available even less expensively than the Gimell and I find it hard to recommend either set of performances at the expense of the other. At these prices I recommend that you buy both.

Thomas TALLIS
Lamentations of Jeremiah I [8:57]; Lamentations of Jeremiah II [13:13]; Absterge Domine [6:11]; Derelinquat impius [3:54]; Mihi autem nimis [2:36]; O sacrum convivium [3:38]; In ieiunio et fletu [4:32]; O salutaris hostia [3:01]; In manus tuas [2:07]; O nata lux [2:02]; Salve intemerata 1 [7:27]
CDGIM025 [67:36] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

The Complete English Anthems
CDGIM007
[38:05] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Spem in alium and other works
CDGIM006 [43:06] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

All but one of the works on CDGIM007, most of those on CDGIM025 and all those on CDGIM006 are duplicated on The Tallis Scholars Sing Tallis (CDGIM203, above), (Tudor Music 2 CDGIM210, above) and Lamenta (CDGIM996, above). Any items which you do not obtain via one or more of those sets can be downloaded, separately, including Out of the deep from CDGIM007.

The Tallis Christmas Mass: Thomas TALLIS Missa Puer natus est nobis [23:54]; Audivi vocem [4:09]; Magnificat (4vv) [11;56]; Ave Dei patris filia [16:19]
CDGIM034 [56:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit Studio Master.

The contents of this CD are available on other Gimell recordings (see below)

Christmas with the Tallis Scholars
Medieval Carols and German Chorales (from CDGIM010, below);
JOSQUIN des Prés (c.1440-1521) Ave Maria for four voices [5:25]
Philippe VERDELOT (1480/85-c.1530/32? d. before 1552) Beata es virgo / Ave Maria [5:40]
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA Ave Maria for four voices (attributed) [2:15] Ave Maria for double choir [4:51]
Jacobus CLEMENS Non Papa (c.1510/15-c.1555/6) Pastores quidnam vidistis [4:43]; Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis [31:15]
Christmas Chant from Salisbury, including Missa in gallicantu (Christmas Mass ‘at cock-crow’) [39:04]
TALLIS Missa Puer natus (as above) [23:54] - rec. 1986-1998. DDD
CDGIM202 [2 CDs for the price of one: 157:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless. (See also my more detailed review of the CDs and review by Colin Clarke)

Philip and Mary: A Marriage of England and Spain
Pierre de MANCHICOURT (1510-1564
) Jubilate Deo [6:17];
John SHEPPARD Reges Tharsis [4:54];
De MANCHICOURT Reges terræ [6:10]
Thomas TALLIS Suscipe quæso [9:41]
Francisco GUERRERO (1528-1589) Ave virgo sanctissima [4:34]; Ave Maria [4:19]; Pastores loquebantur [6:09]
Thomas TALLIS Missa Puer Natus: Gloria [10:57]; Sanctus [4:39]; Benedictus [3:39]; Agnus Dei [8:49]
John SHEPPARD Libera nos [3:28]
CORO COR16037 [75:03] – from classicsonline, theclassicalshop and emusic (all mp3)

Both these recording feature Tallis’s Christmastide Mass, Puer natus est nobis, probably written in anticipation of the baby which Philip of Spain and the English Queen Mary Tudor were hoping would ensure that England remained faithful to the Roman communion. As it happened, the expected infant turned out to be a tumour, but the music reflects the hopes, not the disappointment. On Gimell, a complete performance is coupled with three shorter pieces – a fairly short CD and one whose contents are duplicated, the Mass on the Christmas CD and the other pieces on The Tallis Scholars Sing Tallis and The Essential Tallis Scholars. If you must have one of the 24-bit versions, however, you need to choose CDGIM034.

As well as the Tallis Christmas Mass, CDGIM202 includes another piece of Christmas music suitable for listening all year round, the Missa Pastores Quidnam vidistis by Clemens, who joking referred to himself as ‘non papa’ – Clement, but not Pope Clement, from CDGIM013 – available on CD, mp3 and lossless. Though the major contents of this are included on the Christmas album, three items are not; these can be downloaded separately, including the beautiful Ego flos campi, which is also to be found on The Essential Tallis Scholars. Or choose the Coro recording of the Tallis Mass (see below) and download the Clemens single CD.

On Coro – their own in-house label – The Sixteen offer the four extant sections of the Mass in the company of other music of the period, by English and Spanish composers. I’m inclined to give the Coro recording a slight edge over the Gimell, for the variety of the music if for nothing else. In some cases The Sixteen are a little faster than the Scholars, though they take the Gloria and Agnus Dei from the Tallis Christmas Mass more slowly: both tempi work well in context. Their version of Suscipe quæso also benefits from being a little slower than the version sung by The Cardinall’s Musick on Hyperion (see below).

Despite their name, the Tallis Scholars are not the only players in what is becoming a competitive field. The following are well worth considering, as supplements to the Gimell recordings, rather than as competitors:

Thomas TALLIS Jesu salvator sæculi [4:14]; Gaude gloriosa [17:20]; Sermone blando angelus [5:16]; Magnificat a5 [10:28]; Nunc dimittis a5 [3:15]; Mihi autem nimis [2:28]; Absterge Domine [5:49]; Derelinquat impius [3:55]; Loquebantur variis linguis [3:58]; Suscipe quæso, Domine [9:05]; O nata lux [1:57]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood – rec. Arundel Castle, 2005. DDD.
HYPERION CDA67548 [67:45] – from Hyperion on CD, mp3 and lossless

Where the Hyperion recording is in direct competition with the Gimell, for example in Gaude gloriosa, I must express a preference for the Scholars: in this piece, the slightly slower tempo and the slight insecurity of the lower voices on Hyperion make me prefer the Gimell recording. Chapelle du Roi on Volume 3 of their complete series (Signum SIGCD003, Music for Queen Mary) are also just that little faster than The Cardinall’s Musick and their performance comes off very well. Subscribers to the Naxos Music Library can compare the Signum recording here with the Gimell here.

There is, however, enough wonderful music on the Hyperion which is not included in the Gimell set, and enough fine singing in most of the programme for me to recommend this as an extra purchase. That the recordings of The Cardinall’s Musick should be in the same league as the Scholars is hardly surprising, since Andrew Carwood, their director, has sung with The Tallis Scholars and The Sixteen.

Christmas Carols and Motets
Medieval Carols: Angelus ad virginem [2:35]; Nowell sing we [3:02]; There is no rose [3:34]; Nowell: Dieu vous garde [4:02]
The Coventry Carol: Lullay: I saw [2:16]; Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child [3:17]; William BYRD Lullaby [6:27]
JOSQUIN Ave Maria four voices [5:22]; Philippe VERDELOT Beata es virgo/Ave Maria, 7vv [5:37]; attrib VICTORIA Ave Maria, 4vv [2:15]; VICTORIA Ave Maria double choir [4:43]
Michael and Heinrich PRAETORIUS and J S BACH German Chorales: Es ist ein’Ros’ [3:06]; Joseph, lieber Joseph [2:30]; In dulci jubilo [3:37]; Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme [4:07] – rec.1986. DDD.
CDGIM010 [56:59] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Much of this is included on the 2-CD set CDGIM202, above, but you may feel when Christmas approaches that there is enough extra here to warrant downloading this album, too. Both are a cut or two above your usual Yuletide offerings.

Jacob CLEMENS non Papa Pastores quidnam vidistis [4:46]; Missa Pastores quidnam vidistis [27:58]; Tribulationes civitatum [5:15]; Pater peccavi [8:36]; Ego flos campi [4:11]
CDGIM013 [54:15] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

The Christmas Mass, Pastores quidnam vidistis, is included on CDGIM202, above, but the other music of this composer who jokingly called himself ‘Clement, but not Pope Clement’, is well worth downloading separately. In the interview with John Quinn, Steve Smith chose this as his ‘Desert Island’ recording, for reasons that I fully understand.

Requiem
Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548–1611)
Requiem [35:31]; Versa est in luctum [3:49]
Duarte LÔBO (c.1565–1646) Requiem for six voices [40:13]
Manuel CARDOSO (c.1566–1650) Requiem [47:29]; Non mortui [3:59]; Sitivit anima mea [3:48]; Mulier quae erat [3:24]; Nos autem gloriari [2:03]
Alonso LOBO (1555–1617) Versa est in luctum [4:13]; Credo quod redemptor [3:15]; Vivo ego, dicit Dominus [2:53]; Ave Maria [4:29] – rec. 1987-1997. DDD.
CDGIM205 [2 CDs for the price of one: 155:00] – from Gimell

Please see my detailed review of this set and of the Duarte Lôbo album (CDGIM028, below)

VICTORIA Requiem
CDGIM012 – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

The whole of this recording, apart from the Tallis Scholars’ first recording of Alonso Lobo’s Versa est in luctum (from CDGIM031) is contained on CDGIM205 (above), which also contains their second recording of the Lobo piece.

Francisco GUERRERO (1528–1599) Maria Magdalene [8:07]
Alonso LOBO Missa Maria Magdalene [28:48]; O quam suavis es, Domine[4:27]; Quam pulchri sunt gressus tui [3:29]; Ave regina caelorum [3:34]; Versa est in luctum [4:11]; Credo quod redemptor [3:13]; Vivo ego, dicit Dominus [2:50]; Ave Maria [4:30]
CDGIM031 [63:09] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Four of the Lobo works on this CD are contained on CDGIM205 (above) but the Missa Maria Magdalene is well worth the extra cost of this recording or of downloading it separately.

Duarte LÔBO Requiem for six voices [40:13]; Missa Vox clamantis [25:24]
CDGIM028 [65:48] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 or lossless

The Requiem is included on CDGIM205 (above), but the Missa Vox clamantis is worth purchasing separately for £6.03 (mp3) or £6.95 (CD quality).

Manuel CARDOSO (c.1566–1650)
Requiem [47:17]; Non mortui [3:57]; Sitivit anima mea [3:46]; Mulier quae erat [3:23]; Nos autem gloriari [2:05]; Magnificat secundi toni 5vv [9:50] – rec: 1990. DDD.
CDGIM021 [70:19] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 or lossless

All but the Magnificat secundi toni from CDGIM021 are included on Requiem (CDGIM205 above). Download that separately for £1.58 (mp3) or £1.98 (CD quality)

Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548–1611) Lamentations of Jeremiah (1585)
Lamentations for Maundy Thursday - Lamentation I SSATB [6:20]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:42]; Lamentation III SSAATB [6:19]
Lamentations for Good Friday - Lamentation I SAATB [4:01]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:35]; Lamentation III SSAATB [4:51]
Lamentations for Holy Saturday - Lamentation I SSATTB [5:13]; Lamentation II SSATB [5:53]; Lamentation III SSAATTBB [8:24]
Juan Gutiérrez de PADILLA (c.1590–1664)
Lamentations for Maundy Thursday SSATTB [11:48]
CDGIM043 [64:08] – from Gimell on CD,mp3, lossless and 24-bit

For Gimell’s latest recording, I refer you to my March 2010 Download Roundup, including a comparison with a Hyperion recording, and to reviews by Gavin Dixon here and John Quinn (Recording of the Month) here. I was interested to read in the interview with Peter Phillips that this would be his ‘Desert Island’ choice; it’s certainly well up to the standard of anything that the Scholars have ever produced.

VICTORIA Tenebrae Responsories: Amicus meus [3:05]; Iudas mercator pessimus [2:25]; Unus ex discipulis meis [3:47]; Eram quasi agnus [3:16]; Una hora [2:50]; Seniores populi [4:30]; Tamquam ad latronem [3:33]; Tenebrae factae sunt [4:01]; Animam meam dilectam [7:00]; Tradiderunt me [2:43]; Iesum tradidit impius [3:01]; Caligaverunt oculi me [5:43]; Recessit pastor noster [3:01]; O vos omnes [2:48]; Ecce quomodo moritur [4:53]; Astiterunt reges [2:01]; Aestimatus sum [2:28]; Sepulto Domino [4:34] – rec. 1990. DDD.
CDGIM022 [65:57] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

I gave the Westminster Cathedral recording of these Holy Week responsories (Hyperion CDA66304) a slight edge over the Gimell in my March 2010 Download Roundup more out of a desire for even-handedness than anything, having praised the new Lamentations recording so enthusiastically. There is, in fact, little to choose between the two, other than a choice between a cathedral choir rather more attuned to the music of the Roman rite than its Anglican counterparts and the sheer professionalism of the Tallis Scholars.

Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652) Miserere [12:31]
William MUNDY (c.1529-1591) Vox Patris cælestis [19:16]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594) Missa Papæ Marcelli [36:34] - rec. Chapel of Merton College, Oxford 1980. AAD
GIMSE 401 [68:40] – from Gimell on CD and in mp3 and lossless.

- See review by John Quinn.

Live in Rome
PALESTRINA Surge, illuminare [3:16]; Missa Papæ Marcelli [33:02]
ALLEGRI Miserere [13:52]
PALESTRINA Stabat mater [10:01]; Alma Redemptoris Mater [3:33]; Magnificat primi toni (8vv) [8:40]; Nunc dimittis (8vv) [4:06]
rec. Santa Maria Maggiore, 2 and 3 February, 1994. DDD
CDGIM994 [73:19] – from Gimell on CD and in mp3 and lossless. Also on DVD GIMDP903 (PAL) or GIMDN904 (NTSC)

ALLEGRI Miserere [13:41]
PALESTRINA Stabat mater [9.51]; Missa Papæ Marcelli [31:52]; Tu es Petrus (6vv) [6:51]
ALLGERI Miserere (with additional embellishments) [13:48] - rec. Chapel of Merton College, Oxford, 30-31 March and 3-4 April, 2005. DDD.
CDGIM041 [76.05] – from Gimell on CD and in mp3, lossless, 24-bit Studio Master, Studio Master 5.1, Studio Master Pro and Studio Master Pro 5.1.

Supplementary recommendation:

PALESTRINA Missa Papæ Marcelli [38:34]; Missa Brevis [28:31]
Choir of Westminster Cathedral/David Hill
rec. Westminster Cathedral, May, 1987. DDD.
HYPERION CDA66266 [67:05] – from Hyperion (CD, mp3 and lossless)

For some reason, the Tallis Scholars’ 1980 recording also remains available at full price on CDGIM339, but with a clear reminder that the above issue offers better value. This is where it all began, introducing us not only to the Scholars themselves but also to the music of Anthony Mundy: I don’t think I had heard any of his music before I bought this recording on Classics for Pleasure. The Palestrina and Allegri, of course, were already well known, but the quality of the singing was revelatory: apart from a handful of recordings by the Clerkes of Oxenford under David Wulstan, whose recording of Tallis and Sheppard is still well worth having (Classics for Pleasure 5759822, at budget price), there had been little of this quality.

The strongest competition to these Tallis Scholars recordings comes from the Westminster Cathedral Choir on Hyperion, recorded five years after the first of their Gimell recordings and generally at a slightly more sedate pace. I leave it to you to make the impossible judgement between the mixed professional group and the male voices of the Westminster choir, whose sound may well be closer to what Palestrina himself heard in Rome – how can we be sure? The coupled Missa Brevis is also superbly sung and the whole well recorded, but please note that Gimell have another trick up their sleeve – these two masses are coupled, together with other music, on The Tallis Scholars Sing Palestrina, at budget price. (See below). In an ideal world you need every one of the recordings of the Pope Marcellus Mass listed above.

Seven years later again, the Scholars took a unique opportunity to record Palestrina live in Rome 400 years after his death. The result, on CD, download and DVD, is well worth having even if you already have the earlier Gimell or the Hyperion recording of the Marcellus Mass. The DVD version is recorded in 4:3 format only but, in every other respect, it surpasses the audio-only version, a reminder of a memorable occasion but musically extremely valuable, too. In the years since their first recording, the performance of the Mass had become faster – though never to the detriment of the music – while their version of the Miserere had become broader. I have absolutely no quarrel with John France’s nomination of this as one of his Desert Island discs: Recording of the Month – see review.

The third recording was made in 2005. The interpretations of the Marcellus Mass and Miserere remain much the same as in Rome but the recording is offered in a wider variety of formats, including two surround-sound versions. The 24-bit/48 kHz Studio Master recording sounds well – if, like me, you listen to downloads via Squeezebox, there is no point in going for a higher version than this. The live recording in Rome has a real sense of occasion, but you could hardly go wrong with this third version, either.

If you are looking for a budget-price version of the Missa Papæ Marcelli, you could do much worse than the recent Alto reissue of Pro Cantione Antiqua’s recording, now more attractively coupled than in its earlier ASV incarnation with the Missa L’homme armé on ALC1061 – see review. The Gimell and Hyperion alternatives, however, are worth the extra for their more luminous top lines.

Just to complicate matters, the 1980 version of Missa Papæ Marcelli is also included on a 2-for-1 special:

The Tallis Scholars Sing Palestrina
Plainchant
Assumpta est Maria in cælum [0:27];
PALESTRINA Assumpta est Maria in cælum [7:13]; Missa Assumpta est Maria in cælum [29:44]; Sicut lilium inter spinas I [4:42]; Missa Sicut lilium inter spinas [29:16]; Lamentations for Holy Saturday (Lesson 3, 6vv) [9:56]; Missa Brevis [21:24]; Missa Papæ Marcelli [36:49] - rec. Merton College Chapel, Oxford, and Salle Church, 1980 (AAD), 1989 and 1998 (DDD).
CDGIM204 [2CDs for the pirce of one: 139:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless.

The inclusion of the Missa Brevis on this recording puts it in direct competition with the Hyperion above, and the 2-for-1 offer makes it less expensive than the latter. As in the case of the Marcellus Mass, the Westminster Cathedral recording is more expansive. Both are highly desirable, but the Gimell is made more so by the inclusion of the beautiful Lamentations and the two Marian masses. You could always purchase this twofer and download selected tracks from the other recordings to complete your collection without duplication. The same applies to some of the other twofers listed below – a real advantage of downloading.

PALESTRINA Missa Nigra sum [35:20]

Tomás Luis de VICTORIA (1548–1611) Nigra sum [4:01]
Andreas de SILVA (c.1475/80 - c.1530) Nigra sum [1:55] - rec. Merton College Chapel, Oxford, 1983. AAD.
CDGIM003 [47:54] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

Gimell’s earlier albums serve as a reminder of the quality of their earlier 16-bit recordings which don’t have a 24-bit equivalent. This, in fact, is an AAD transfer, though it still sounds very well indeed. The only possible complaint is that 48 minutes is short value for a full-price recording these days; Hyperion, for example, have mostly transferred their shorter early recordings to the budget-price Helios label – and, indeed, Gimell themselves have reissued some of their own earlier recordings at a lower price or as 2-for-1 bargains. (See also my October 2009 Download Roundup)

Plainchant Benedicta es [2:25]
JOSQUIN Benedicta es [6:57]
PALESTRINA Missa Benedicta es [41:22]; Missa Nasce la gioja mea [24:43] – rec. Merton Chapel, Oxford, 1981. AAD
GIMSE402 [75:28] – from Gimell at budget price on CD, mp3 and lossless.

Like the first recording of the Allegri and Palestrina listed above, this is one of Gimell’s special-price 25th-anniversary recordings, with the added bonus of the 1984 recording of the Mass Nasce la gioja mea. It was, in fact, the first recording that they made for their own label and it still sounds very well indeed. It also comes at a special price. In the interview with John Quinn, Steve Smith expresses the opinion that they got it right pretty well from the start with this album, not least with the inclusion of some Josquin, a statement about which it’s impossible to demur.

The contents of the Palestrina CD CDGIM008 are included on other, inexpensive programmes: Missa brevis on CDGIM204 (above) and Missa nosce la gioja on GIMSE402 (above). The contents of another Palestrina CD, CDGIM020 are included in their entirety on CDGIM204 (above).

Carlo GESUALDO (c.1561–1613) Tenebræ Responsories for Holy Saturday: Sicut ovis ad occisionem [3:44]; Jerusalem, surge [3:31]; Plange quasi virgo [5:28]; Recessit pastor noster [3:39]; O vos omnes [3:36]; Ecce quomodo moritur justus [5:46]; Astiterunt reges terræ [2:25]; Æstimatus sum [3:49]; Sepulto Domino [5:30]
Four Marian Motets: Ave, dulcissima Maria [4:14]; Precibus et meritis [3:00]; Ave, Regina cœlorum [3:27]; Maria, mater gratiæ [3:42]
rec. 1987, Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England. DDD.
CDGIM015 [52:04] – from Gimell on CD and mp3 and lossless.

Some of the creative figures of the renaissance were larger than life. Two remain famous today almost as much for the fact that they were murderers as for the quality of their creative output – the painter Caravaggio and the composer Gesualdo. It is often supposed that Gesualdo’s madrigals and church music are especially intense because of the sins which he had to expiate, but it remains a matter of speculation if either his music or Caravaggio’s paintings would have been any different had they led more conventional lives. These performances by the Tallis Singers stress the beauty of the music as well as – perhaps slightly at the expense of – its originality.

Three of the Marian motets here are also available on a Naxos recording of Gesualdo’s five-part sacred music from a rival Oxford-based group, the Oxford Camerata directed by Jeremy Summerly (8.550742) and available in 320k mp3 from classicsonline and passionatio. Nordic Voices offer two of Gesualdo’s Holy Week responsories on a Chandos recording, coupled with music by Palestrina and Victoria, which I recommended in my November 2009 Download Roundup. There is also a King’s Singers recording of the Maundy Thursday Tenebræ Responsories, together with the associated readings from Lamentations, on Signum (SIGCD048) available as an mp3 download (320k) from passionato. All of these are best regarded as complementary to the Gimell, rather than as rivals.

The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd
William BYRD (1539/40-1623)

Mass for five voices [22:27]; Mass for four voices [22:06]; Mass for three voices [17:51]; Ave verum corpus [4:10]; Infelix ego [12:20]; Vigilate [4:52]; Tristitia et anxietas [10:06]; Ne irascaris, Domine [8:06]; Prevent us, O Lord [2:48]; The Great Service – Venite, Te Deum, Benedictus, Creed, Magnificat, Nunc dimittis [44:14]; O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth [2:52]; O God, the proud are risen [3:01]; Sing joyfully unto God [2:59]
rec. Merton College Chapel, Oxford, the Church of St John at Hackney and in Tewkesbury Abbey, 1984, 1987 and 2006. DDD.
CDGIM208 [2 CDs: 158:00] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless.

NB: This set includes the contents of CDGIM345 (BYRD The Three Masses) and CDGIM011 (BYRD The Great Service)

This 2-for-1 set is a wonderful bargain: whatever other recordings of Byrd you may have, this is essential, combining his music for the Roman and Anglican liturgies. Though he was a Catholic recusant, his settings of the English Prayer Book are just as accomplished in their different way, as the Tallis Scholars’ performances prove. I’m not sure that they don’t do even greater service to Byrd than to the composer whose name they bear.

Though the recordings were made over a considerable period of time, as with most of these 2-CD Gimell compilations, the older versions in no way show their age.

Don’t go for the separate issues of the three Masses and the Great Service, which remain available at full price. To complicate the issue, however, there is a later Tallis Scholars’ recording of Byrd from which three of the items on the 2-CD set are taken:

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune
Vigilate [4:52]; Tristitia et anxietas [10:07]; Ne irascaris, Domine [8:06]; Prevent us, O Lord [2:46]; O Lord, make thy servant Elizabeth [3:04]; Magnificat, from the Great Service [9:57]; Mass for four voices [23:06]; Ave verum corpus [3:56]
Rec. Tewkesbury Abbey, 2006. DDD.
CDGIM992 [65:54] – from Gimell on CD, SACD (GIMSA592), DVD (PAL, GIMDP901, NTSC GIMDN902), mp3, lossless, 24-bit Studio Master and Studio Master 5.1

- See review by Dominy Clements and review of DVD by Robert Hugill

This programme was recorded in association with a BBC TV programme, hence the DVD, which would be the main reason for buying it rather than one of the audio versions, especially as it contains material not on the CD. Robert Hugill had reservations about the value of the DVD, but I must confess to having been won over by both it and the CD.

The 4-part Mass is taken a fraction more slowly than on the earlier recording, but there is very little to choose: given the bargain price of the twofer, stay with that now classic account if all you want is an audio version. If you are uncertain, listen via Naxos Music Library – click here.

To investigate Byrd’s music further, a good place to start would be with the last four volumes of the series which The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood began on ASV and completed on Hyperion: Laudibus in Sanctis (CDA67568, Recording of the Month – see review and February 2009 Download Roundup); Hodie Simon Petrus (CDA67653 – see review and review); Assumpta Est Maria (Hyperion CDA67675 – see September 2009 and October 2009 Download Roundups and Hyperion Top 30) and Infelix Ego (CDA67779 – see February 2010 Roundup).

If you prefer to hear Byrd’s three Masses performed by a cathedral choir and with the propers for various parts of the church year, you could do much worse than the recordings which Christ Church Cathedral Choir, Oxford have made for Nimbus: NI5302, 5287 and 5387 – see review.) The sections of Byrd’s four-part mass are interspersed with other contemporary music on Signum SIGCD061: good performances by the King’s Singers, if a little too smooth, well recorded, though with the slightly corny title 1605: Treason and Dischord. Subscribers can try this on Naxos Music Library – click here.

Byrd’s Second Service is unjustly neglected: try the Harmonia Mundi recording, coupling it with Consort Anthems (HMU90 7440, Magdalen College Choir, Oxford/Bill Ives – see review and February 2009 Download Roundup). I was a little less impressed with this recording than my colleague who made it Recording of the Month, but it is well worth hearing.

Thomas TOMKINS (1572–1656) Third or Great Service [30:14]
Anthems: When David heard [4:27]; Then David mourned [3:00]; Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom [5:36]; Woe is me [4:13]; Be strong and of a good courage [2:34]; O sing unto the Lord a new song [3:44]; O God, the proud are risen against me [4:07]
rec. Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Salle, Norfolk, England, 1991. DDD.
CDGIM024 [58:12] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless.

Alternative/complementary recordings:

Thomas TOMKINS Cathedral Music: O sing unto the Lord a new song [3:52]; Then David mourned [2:57]; My beloved spake, and said unto me [4:53]; Above the stars my Saviour dwells [4:02]; Third ‘Great’ Service: Magnificat [7:11]; Nunc dimittis [3:48]; Glory be to God on high [5:09]; Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom [6:21]; When David heard [5:00]; My shepherd is the living Lord [3:51]; Sing unto God [6:49]; Behold, the hour cometh [3:51]; O God, the proud are risen against me [3:50]
St George’s Chapel Choir, Windsor/Christopher Robinson
HYPERION HELIOS CDH55066 [61:34] – from Hyperion (CD, mp3 and lossless)

Thomas WEELKES (c.1575-1623) Alleluia, I heard a voice [3:02]; When David heard [4:43]; Most mighty and all-knowing Lord [4:37]; Hosanna to the Son of David. [2:03]; In nomine in 4 parts [1:56]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Hosanna to the Son of David [3:09]; O Lord in thy wrath [3:33]; This is the record of John [4:08]; O clap your hands [5:42]; 4-part in Nomine [2:51]
Thomas TOMKINS O praise the Lord [4:08]; When David heard. [5:01]; 6-part fantasy Fretwork [4:32]; Rejoice, rejoice, and sing [6:50]; O sing unto the Lord [3:38]
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge; Fretwork/Stephen Cleobury – rec. 2007. DDD.
EMI 3944302 [59:51] – from passionato (mp3 and lossless)

- See review by Miguel Muelle

Of the three important English composers of the age which followed that of Tallis and Byrd, Gibbons, Weelkes and Tomkins, the youngest, Tomkins is probably the least well known, though he has some claim to be considered at least the equal of the other two. The EMI recording from King’s places him in context with his more famous contemporaries, with five works by each: the quality of the performances is good enough to serve as an appetite-whetter for one or preferably both of the Gimell and Hyperion releases. Both of these are at least as good as the EMI in their different ways – as with the Tallis Scholars’ and the Westminster Cathedral recordings of Palestrina, they are really complementary rather than rivals. Sample the three versions of When David heard, usually regarded as Tomkins’ masterpiece: the smaller size and professional quality of the Scholars allows them to take this piece significantly faster than either of the choirs without losing its affective power.

Perhaps the best recommendation would be to start with the King’s, to place Tomkins in context; this recording also contains some attractive instrumental works. Then, since you will already have a recording of some of his music from a choir, you might move on to the Scholars’ version. Don’t forget the inexpensive Hyperion, though, or the CRD recording from New College, Oxford (CRD3467), which I recommended briefly in my February 2009 Download Roundup. Then there is a recording of his keyboard music on Metronome (Carole Cerasi, METCD1049 – see review).

There remains one more recording which I must recommend, on the Obsidian label: entitled These Distracted Times (i.e. the Commonwealth period, when church music was banned), it intersperses settings from the Fifth Service with other music – available to hear in good mp3 on the Naxos Music Library and as a download from classicsonline. (OBSID-CD702, Alamire; Fretwork; Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge/David Skinner). It includes a version of When David heard slightly faster even than the Scholars’. (3:58, but I didn’t find this at all rushed. As with the Scholars’ version, the quality of the singing and direction counts much more than the stop-watch.) In fact, despite what I said at the beginning, all in all, Tomkins is starting to be well served by a small but high-quality series of recordings.

Thomas WEELKES (1576-1623) Hark, all ye lovely saints [3:46]
Thomas MORLEY (1558-1602) Hark! Alleluia [1:52]; Phyllis, I fain would die now [5:31]
Thomas VAUTOUR (fl.1600-1620) Cruel Madame [4:24]
Orlando GIBBONS (1583-1625) Ah dear heart [2:09]
John WILBYE (1574-1638) Draw on sweet night [5:49]
John BENNET (1570-1615) All creatures now [2:25]
Robert RAMSEY (fl.1612-1644) Sleep, fleshly birth [6:18]
Giles FARNABY (c.1563-1640) Carters, now cast down [1:54]
Thomas TOMKINS Woe is me [4:07]
William BYRD Though Amaryllis dance [4:53]
Orlando GIBBONS The Silver Swan [1:50]
Thomas TOMKINS When David heard [4:26]; Then David mourned [2:59]; Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom [5:34]; Woe is me [4:13]; Be strong and of a good courage [2:34]; O sing unto the Lord a new song [3:43]; O God, the proud are risen against me [4:14]
rec. 1982 and 1988. DDD.
GIMSE403 [72:50] – from Gimell on CD, mp3 and lossless

The Tallis Scholars’ only recording of secular music, one of their 25th anniversary releases, was a close contender for my Bargain of Month award. The original, rather short, programme, first released on CFP, is augmented with seven tracks of Thomas Tomkins, including his well-known When David heard, to stretch the recording to a very respectable 73 minutes. (But NB, these are all taken from CDGIM024 (above).) I understand that Orlando Gibbons’ The Silver Swan from this recording is one of Gimell’s most downloaded single tracks on iTunes, which is hardly surprising considering the quality of the music and the performance. Don’t go for the iTunes download, though, go direct to Gimell.

Live in Oxford
Jacob OBRECHT Salve Regina [12:19]
JOSQUIN des Prés Gaude Virgo [3:19]; Absalon fili mi [3:45]
John TAVERNER Gaude plurimum [13:21]
William BYRD Tribue, Domine [11:41]
Thomas TALLIS O sacrum convivium [3:19]
William MUNDY Adolescentulus sum ego [4:59]; Vox Patris caelestis [17:55]
rec. 1998. DDD
CDGIM998 [70:51] – from Gimell on CD, mp3, lossless and 24-bit

I’ve left this till last, partly because it’s different from the ordinary run of Gimell recordings – like Live in Rome it was recorded at a concert, this time to celebrate the Scholars’ Silver Anniversary – and partly because it takes us right back to that first Tallis Scholars recording with its revelatory performance of Mundy’s Vox Patris caelestis. Perhaps even more importantly, Peter Phillips seemed to dismiss the idea of further live recordings in the interview with John Quinn: ‘Well, we haven’t planned it and I personally don’t think that ‘live’ live – like BBC radio live – produces very satisfactory records. The public don’t always notice this, because they’re not attuned to it, but a concert is not a recording.’

Postscript

Subscribers to the invaluable Naxos Music Library will find two other recordings there which are not currently available from Gimell. Perhaps they would consider making them available as downloads in the same way that Chandos have made all their deletions available and Hyperion their archive-only recordings.

Russian Orthodox Music including Igor STRAVINSKY Otche nash (Lord’s Prayer) [2:06], Sergei RACHMANINOV Lord’s Prayer [3:46] John TAVENER Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete (1981) [21:40] - AAD
CDGIM002 [56:00] – available for streaming from Naxos Music Library here

John TAVENER Ikon of Light (1984) [42:04]; Funeral Ikos [9:39]; The Lamb [3:42] - rec. 1983. DDD
CDGIM005 [51:43] – available for streaming from Naxos Music Library here

Despite the fact that Peter Phillips held little hope in the interview with John Quinn for expanding the Scholars’ repertoire into more modern material, except, perhaps, as part of his work with the Merton College Choir, I do think that there would be a market for these two deletions as downloads.


 


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