Tallis: Canon; add works

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tallis
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Canon; add works
PERFORMER: Theatre of Voices/Paul Hillier, The King’s Noyse/David Douglas
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907154 DDD
Although these discs share Tallis’s two settings of Lamentations and one anthem, their aims are quite different. Hillier and Douglas present a brief overview of Tallis’s music, some transferred – legitimately – to violin band. The Theatre of (mixed) Voices gives bold, hearty renderings of two psalm tunes, including the famous ‘Tallis’s Canon’, with fascinating modal twists and dissonances. They are rather matter-of-fact in the contrapuntal music: potentially spine-tingling dissonances seem to move the emotions only a little, and the acoustic is rather dry. Yet a similar relaxed indifference suits the violin band well, never imposing alien passion on the natural flow of the lines.

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The Clerks of New College Choir, all men, produce a finely integrated sound as they set Tallis beside his publishing partner Byrd. They sing the Lamentations a tone lower than Hillier’s voices, and create a stirringly rich resonance here and in Byrd’s four-part Mass, similarly low-pitched to ease the range of the inner parts. This is a broader account, in acoustic, in stereo spread, and in tempo. Yet despite the sense of space, the emotional content is immediate, artful but not artificial, as Higginbottom shapes lines in huge uplifting arcs of sound. George Pratt