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Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
The Cardinall’s Musick Tallis Edition - Vol. 5
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
English texts and Latin texts with English translations included
rec. 3-5 March 2014, Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle
HYPERION CDA68095 [71:58]

This latest release in the Tallis series from The Cardinall’s Musick opens with three Latin Responsories in which passages of plainchant alternate with polyphonic sections. In his authoritative notes Andrew Carwood suggests that all three were probably composed during the reign of Queen Mary I (1553-1558) when the Catholic religion was briefly restored in England. However, by that time the reforms led by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, especially during the reign of Mary’s sibling, Edward VI (1547-53) had had a significant impact on the liturgy. So as Carwood comments, Tallis “[made] no attempt to turn the clock back by writing in an old style.” Hence the texts are set in a much more syllabic way than had been the case in Tallis’s early pieces.

Honor, virtus et potestas (‘Honour, power and might’) and Candidi facti sunt Nazarei (‘Shining white were made his Nazarites’) are in five parts. Carwood’s group sings these with one voice to a part except that the tenor line is doubled, perhaps because the original plainsong is heard in the tenor part throughout. Homo quidam fecit coenam (‘A certain man prepared a great feast’) has six separate parts, again with one voice to a part in this recording. I have one small reservation about these otherwise excellent performances: to my ears the sound of the soprano is a bit hard edged; other listeners may disagree. In Ave, Dei patris filia, which Carwood elects to perform with two voices on each of the five parts, I didn’t notice this edge to the soprano tone.

Andrew Carwood surmises that Ave, Dei patris filia (‘Hail, daughter of God the Father’) was a fairly early work, dating from before the death of Henry VIII in 1547. He argues that an extended Marian piece such as this would have had no place in the post-Henrician liturgies. If the theory is correct – and I’m sure it is - one can only marvel at the assurance of the music. Recent scholarship suggests that Tallis took as his model – a model that he appears to have followed very closely indeed – a setting of the same text by Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521). Tallis’s composition is a fine achievement nonetheless, not least because he sustains his elaborate polyphonic invention over such a substantial time frame. I’m not surprised that the work has been accorded top billing on this release. Even after such a lengthy piece of polyphony Tallis really pulls out all the stops for the final ‘Amen’ (from 14:00). This rich, complex ‘Amen’ lasts for just over a minute and a half in this splendid performance and it sounds magnificent, both as music and as a performance.

The remainder of the programme consists of English settings which follow the syllabic precepts of the reformed English church with only male voices involved. It seems to me that these pieces show us what was gained by Cranmer’s reforms in terms of clarity of expression and communication. Yet I think they also show us what was lost; the long, weaving lines and polyphonic skills of Tallis’s earlier music are absent here. That said, in Christ rising again Tallis seems unfettered by any limitations of syllabic setting; the music is interesting and resourceful. There’s some doubt as to the attribution of Out from the deep. It may be by Tallis but it’s possible that it was composed by William Parsons (fl1545-1563).

The remaining items on the disc have been so ordered as to constitute, in effect, the music for a service of sung Matins based on the Matins element of Tallis’s ‘First’ or ‘Dorian’ Service supplemented by other relevant music by him. I must admit that I don’t find this music particularly compelling listening in a domestic context – it would be a different matter to hear it all as part of a liturgy. There’s no doubt, however that Carwood and his singers make a fine job of the music and, of course, it’s right that these settings are included in a complete Tallis series. One nice little touch is that one of the three collects which are sung is the collect for Ash Wednesday since that was the day (5 March 2014) when that part of the recording sessions took place. Of course, another attraction of listening to these settings is that one hears the majestic language of the Book of Common Prayer.

Once again Andrew Carwood and his team have returned to the Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel Castle to make this recording. To judge by this series and also by some recordings I’ve heard by David Skinner’s group, Alamire, this chapel would seem to be an ideal venue for recording Tudor polyphony with a small ensemble. Engineer Martin Haskell and producer Jonathan Freeman-Attwood have obtained excellent results once more with this latest recording. The documentation accompanying this release is fully up to the high standards that one has come to take for granted from Hyperion.

Those who are collecting this outstanding series need not hesitate over acquiring Volume 5. Further releases are awaited with impatience

John Quinn
 
Reviews of The Cardinall’s Musick Tallis Edition on MusicWeb International
Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3 and a second review
Volume 4 and a second review

Track listing

Honor, virtus et potestas [6:08]
Candidi facti sunt Nazarei [4:45]
Homo quidam fecit coenam [5{40]
Ave, Dei patris filia [15:45]
Christ rising again [5:05]
Out from the deep [2:05]
O Lord, open thou our lips (Preces and Responses I) [1:02]
Venite (Short Service ‘Dorian’) [3:13]
E’en like the hunted hind (No 5 of 9 Psalm Tunes) [3:22]
Expend, O Lord (No 6 of 9 Psalm Tunes) [3:27]
Te Deum (Short Service ‘Dorian’) [4:37]
Benedictus (Short Service ‘Dorian’) [3:33]
The Lord be with you (Preces and Responses I) [4:09]
Litany [9:02]

 

 



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