Tallis: Lamentations; Contrafacta

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LABELS: Signum
WORKS: Lamentations; Contrafacta
PERFORMER: Chapelle du Roi/Alistair Dixon
This is the penultimate volume of the complete recorded works of Thomas Tallis. The Chapelle du Roi has been working on this project for eight years now, and it has now reached not only his magnificent Lamentation settings, but also those pieces which, after the overthrow of Catholicism, reappeared with their Latin words changed into English – the so-called ‘contrafacta’. In these English versions the texts are often more wordy than the Latin originals, and require many shorter notes. Consequently, in Blessed are Those that be Undefiled, the singers fall into the trap of sounding cluttered and hurried, compared with their serene recording of the Latin version, Beati immaculati, in Vol. 3. And the exquisite harmonic clashes often make more sense as expressions of the Latin texts than the English substitutions. Therefore, the performers cleverly underplay those at the end of When Jesus, since they now accompany a reference to soothing ointment. The recording approach is a reasonably good compromise between the acoustic required for those works (such as the Lamentations) which were probably performed in small, secret, Catholic gatherings, and those (such as the 40-part Sing and Glorify – a version of the famous Spem in alium) which were heard on state occasions. Anthony Pryer