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Thomas TALLIS (c.1505-1585)
Lamentations of Jeremiah I: Incipit lamentatio Jeremiae prophetae [8:29]
Lamentations of Jeremiah II: De lamentatione Jeremiae prophetae [12:47]
In pace, in idipsum [6:44]
Short Service ‘Dorian’:
Communion setting 1: Commandment Responses - Lord, have mercy upon us [1:14]
Communion setting 2: Credo - I believe in one God [3:39]
Not every one that saith unto me [0:49]
Short Service ‘Dorian’:
Communion setting 3: Sanctus - Holy, holy, holy, Lord [0:41]
Communion setting 4: Gloria - Glory be to God on high [2:08]
Solemnis urgebat dies: Iam Christus astra ascenderat [4:56]
Sancte Deus [6:15]
Dum transisset Sabbatum [7:41]
Why brag’st in malice high (No 7 of 9 Psalm Tunes) [3:27]
Salvator mundi I [2:50]
Te Deum ‘for meanes’: We praise thee, O God [8:57]
Come, Holy Ghost (No 9, ‘Ordinal’ of 9 Psalm Tunes) [2:25]
The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
rec. Fitzalan Chapel, Arundel Castle, 11-13 November 2014
HYPERION CDA68121 [73:02]

Those of us who have been following this distinguished series will be sorry to learn that the finishing line is in sight: this, I believe, is the penultimate instalment in Andrew Carwood’s survey. Brian Wilson in a recent Download News awarded the whole series Download of the Month status.

Rightly, pride of place goes to the two sets of Lamentations of Jeremiah. Andrew Carwood discusses the settings that Tallis and other Tudor composers made of these verses and notes that no one is quite sure wat prompted this fashion, if one may call it that. It’s equally difficult to date the composition of Tallis’s settings. On the face of it, such significant settings in Latin of Holy Week texts might have been composed during the reign of Queen Mary I. However, Carwood points out that stylistically the music seems to come from a later period of Tallis’s career: the reign of Mary’s half-sister, Elizabeth I. We shall never know for certain but what we can be sure of is that these two sets of Lamentations show Tallis at the peak of his powers.

Listening to them in these splendid performances I marvelled afresh at what I might term the restrained elaboration of the music to which the Hebrew letters are set. Equally memorable is the calm, stoic and measured tone of some of the music, usually at the beginning of a particular verse. However, once a verse has been launched it’s not long before a phrase of the Prophet will stimulate Tallis into music of greater urgency, such as when in the first set Jeremiah speaks of ‘civitas plena populo’ (the city that was once thronged with people) or, again, in the second set, when Jeremiah laments ‘virgines eius squalidae’ (her virgins are afflicted). The word painting in these settings is outstandingly eloquent and the technical accomplishment of the music is equally outstanding. Carwood and his singers perform the Lamentations marvellously, exhibiting no little feeling along the way.

In general I prefer Tallis’s Latin music to his English pieces. Turning to the Short or ‘Dorian’ Service after the Lamentations shows what was lost as a result of Cranmer’s drive for syllabic clarity in liturgical music. Cranmer’s motives in demanding clear communication were laudable but notwithstanding Tallis’s craftsmanship the Dorian Service seems a bit plainspoken by comparison with the intricacies and expressiveness not just of the Lamentations but also of many of his other Latin settings. The writing in the Dorian Service is syllabic and homophonic and Tallis also makes some use of the decani/cantores division. The Offertory Sentence Not every one that saith unto me isn’t part of the Service but is interpolated here, in the liturgically appropriate place. It fits, though it’s interesting to read Andrew Carwood’s comment that this particular text is an option in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer but not in the 1552 edition; yet the Dorian Service follows the rubric of the 1552 Book.

Elsewhere in the programme we hear the lovely Lenten Compline respond, In pace, in idipsum. This is well positioned as it follows the Lamentations, which have been sung by male voices whereas in this piece the top line is sung by a soprano. Julie Cooper’s delivery of that line is beautifully poised. Sancte Deus is the earliest piece included here for it dates from the reign of Henry VIII. Early it may be, but it’s a very fine piece and the extended ‘Amen’, which lasts for about a minutes in this performance, bespeaks a high order of compositional confidence. By contrast Salvator mundi I is a much later composition; it is part of the 1575 Cantiones sacrae. Chronologically between those two pieces come three offerings which almost certainly date from the reign of Mary I. As well as In pace, in idipsum, discussed above, we can hear Solemnis urgebat dies: Iam Christus astra ascenderat. This is an Office Hymn for Matins on the Feast of Pentecost and its verses alternate plainchant and polyphony. The other piece that probably dates from the Marian reign is the fine Easter Day Matins respond, Dum transisset Sabbatum.

This latest instalment in Andrew Carwood’s Tallis survey maintains the very high standards of previous releases. The singing is flawless and evidences, under Carwood’s guiding hand, great expertise in this repertoire. Once again the Fitzalan Chapel in Arundel Castle proves to be an ideal recording location. The recorded sound is lovely. The chapel’s resonance puts a becoming aura around the music yet the resonance is not excessive and so musical clarity is never sacrificed. As usual, Andrew Carwood’s notes are excellent.

Those who are following this series will need no encouragement from me to make a further investment.

John Quinn


Reviews of The Cardinall’s Musick Tallis Edition on MusicWeb International
Volume One
Volume Two
Volume Three and a second review
Volume Four and a second review
Volume Five

 

 



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