Four Gentlemen of The Royal Chapel

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd and Tomkins.,Tallis,Tye
LABELS: Deux-Elles
WORKS: Assorted works
PERFORMER: Clare Wilkinson (mezzo-soprano);
Rose Consort of Viols


There is no doubt about the quality of these pieces, but the combination of just one (rather nice) voice with a consort of resonant strings presents certain challenges. When the vocal part truly leads the music (as in Byrd’s ‘This Sweet and Merry Month of May’) things are fine, but when it is only one patchy strand in the complex polyphony (Tye’s ‘Christ Rising’) then the fragmented line and oddly scattered texting make a strange effect. That said, Clare Wilkinson mostly holds her own, and is excellent in Tomkin’s energetic and jolly ‘Oyez! Has Any found a Lad?’ The viol playing itself is good. The ‘outdoor’ Italianate feel to Tallis’s In Nomine No. 2 and the delicately shaped cantus firmus line of Tomkin’s In Nomine No. 1 indicate a musical and experienced ensemble. The recording does not always clarify the buzzy depths of sound in the string playing, and at times the singer sounds slightly more distant than the instruments, but this difficult combination of performers is handled quite well. Anthony Pryer