ALBUM TITLE: Tallis
WORKS: Spem in alium; Short Service ‘Dorian’; Sing and glorify; In ieiunio et fletu; Blessed are those that be undefiled; Preces & Responses II, etc
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68156
The pinnacles of this glorious disc are Thomas Tallis’s vast canvas – 40 independent voices – of Spem in alium, and a later version to an English text, Sing and glorify. A visit to London by the Italian Alessandro Striggio, composer of several motets for multiple choral forces, resulting in rich tapestries of vocal counterpoint, probably created a challenge to his English contemporary to match their gargantuan scale. The outcome is one of English Tudor music’s greatest achievements.
Forty voices are divided into eight five-part choirs, clearly intended to stand in a semi-circle. Though such a staging cries out for surround-sound, Hyperion’s producers have created a strikingly wide two-dimensional stereo aural spectrum. Beginning with a solitary voice on the extreme left, the choirs enter in turn, the upper four first, then the lower four. Finally, Tallis brings in all 40 voices in an overwhelming cascade of independent lines. This climax is followed by choir piling on choir from right to left before a series of contrasts, groups of choirs responding to each other from different parts of the sound-stage. Carwood moulds the structures to great effect, with wide-ranging dynamics from hushed groupings of eight voices to the full force.
The remainder of the disc consists largely of Evensong from The Short Service, and includes the sublimely simple Tallis’s Canon, all beautifully crafted, and serving as a contrast in scale and mood to the two versions of Tallis’s masterpiece.