Collection: The Marriage of England and Spain

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COMPOSERS: Taverner
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitis
PERFORMER: Josep Cabré (solo plainchant), Carys Lane (soprano), William Missin (countertenor), Simon Berridge, Tom Phillips (tenor), Jonathan Arnold (baritone), Charles Gibbs (bass); Orchestra of the Renaissance/Richard Cheetham
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 921401

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One of the most innovative projects to emerge from last year’s anniversary of the death of Philip II of Spain is this speculative recreation of the Wedding Mass which marked the union of Philip and Mary Tudor in 1554. Working on the premise that singers of the English Chapel Royal and instrumentalists of the Spanish Capilla Real must have joined forces for the occasion, Richard Cheetham has woven together a glorious sonic tapestry with John Taverner’s monumental Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas intertwined with fanfares, organ solos, instrumental arrangements of Spanish and Flemish works, and plainchant – hauntingly intoned by the smokey Catalan voice of Josep Cabré.

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Cheetham’s controversial decision to use instruments in the Taverner offers a refreshing view of Tudor polyphony: rather than the wash of sound so often produced in a cappella performances, the emphasis here is on texture and counterpoint, with cornett and shawms highlighting individual lines while the dusky tones of dulcians and sackbuts create an aptly tenebrous colour for this ill-fated wedding. At times the singers sound a little tentative and very occasionally the instruments create slight problems of intonation, but all in all this is a splendid achievement – stately and ceremonious, yet at the same time intimate. It deserves every success. Kate Bolton