Audivi Vocem

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COMPOSERS: Tallis,Tye and Sheppard
LABELS: ECM
WORKS: 16th-century Latin church music
PERFORMER: Hilliard Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: 476 6353

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On this disc we hear for the first time movements from Tye’s Missa Sine Nomine – created from incomplete part-books – and three works by Sheppard. These are set alongside ‘best hits’ from Tallis’s Cantiones Sacrae, the familiar creating context for the unfamiliar. This selection sets in relief each composer’s experiments with text setting, texture and antiphonal devices during the English reform of Catholic music. Alas, the Hilliard’s professionalism seems to distance it from the words whose import Tye, Sheppard and Tallis sought to articulate anew, and the interpretation quickly becomes predictable. Syllabic homophonic passages are crisp, measured, and strain towards a final fortissimo. Notes are lingered over to emphasise strong vertical effects, such as false relations or polarised registers. The ensemble is flawless and the sound reproduction crystalline. Missing from this reading, however, are any extreme dynamics, metric play or sense of spontaneity. While commanding respect, this performance ultimately lacks sparkle. Berta Joncus