Collection: Royal Music from the Tower of London

Our rating 
2.0 out of 5 star rating 2.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd,Cornysh,Farnaby,Gibbons,Mundy,Sheppard,Tallis,Taverner,Weelkes,White
LABELS: ISIS
WORKS: Works by Cornysh, Taverner, Byrd, White, Sheppard, Gibbons, Tallis, Weelkes, Farnaby & Mundy
PERFORMER: Choir of the Chapels Royal of St Peter ad Vincula and St John the Evangelist/Stephen Tilton
CATALOGUE NO: CD 021

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Music associated with the early history of the Tower of London is a fascinating and still little-explored area of our cultural heritage, and full credit is due to those who initiated this project. The recording was made in the fine Norman chapel of St John the Evangelist within the Tower, and its clear, silvery acoustics are perfect for the chant and early English polyphony included on this disc.

Despite its big name, this is a small choir, clearly most at ease in the simple, more intimate numbers: the chant, Tallis’s hymn Te lucis ante terminum and anthems by Mundy and Byrd, all of which they sing with freshness and candour. The more substantial works include a magnificent setting of the Salve regina by Cornysh and Taverner’s O splendor gloriae.

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This is demanding stuff, and the intricate, long-breathed lines and fiendishly high treble parts prove to be too much for the young choir: the sopranos sound strained and ill-at-ease, and pitch fluctuates uncomfortably. A pity, when so much of this disc is quite acceptable. Kate Bolton