COMPOSERS: Byrd,Morley,Tallis,Tomkins,Weelkes and Gibbons
ALBUM TITLE: Music of the Realm: Tudor Music for Men’s Voices
WORKS: Works by Byrd, Morley, Tomkins, Tallis, Weelkes and Gibbons
PERFORMER: The Queen’s Six
CATALOGUE NO: RES 10146
From The Tallis Scholars and The Cardinall’s Musick to Stile Antico and Contrapunctus, the standard of consort singing on disc is now so very, very high that it is difficult for emerging groups to make an impact with a programme of Tudor polyphony. Drawn from the Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with two countertenors, a brace of tenors, a baritone and a bass, The Queen’s Six should enjoy a head start – if only because of their connection to the institution in which John Baldwin assembled his anthology of more than 170 motets, and their proximity to Eton, where another great collection was preserved.
Surprisingly, The Queen’s Six has chosen mostly familiar anthems, which they sing mostly within a modest dynamic compass and at a pleasant andante. Tap your toes through Thomas Morley’s O amica mea and you’ll find the same beat carried through into Thomas Tomkins’s Turn unto the Lord. There is too little specificity and far too little attention to the texts. Laboravi in gemitu meo, credited to Morley but purloined from Philippe Rogier, is about anguish, which should sound different to awe, humility, joy or tenderness. Where this light-toned, unassuming sextet delivers is in the strongest material: the agonies of both settings of When David heard (by Tomkins and Gibbons) and the obsessional fervour of Tallis’s Videte miraculum. Were the weaker works half this flavoursome, it would be ok. As it is, I’m afraid it’s one for Windsor Castle gift shop. Anna Picard