Tallis, Byrd, Tomkins & Gibbons

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COMPOSERS: Byrd,Tallis,Tomkins & Gibbons
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Spem in Alium
WORKS: Works by Tallis, Byrd, Tomkins & Gibbons
PERFORMER: Instrumentalists, The Sixteen/Harry Christophers
Though royalty is an inexhaustible source for low-budget TV series and popular marketing, The Sixteen’s anthology of a century of royal repertoire composed ‘for monarchs and magnates’ is the real thing: a masterpiece of detective work, rare repertoire and artful editing, and a fitting celebration of its first quarter-century devoted to early music.


Pride of place goes to a pair of recordings of Tallis’s Spem in alium, in Latin and in English (as Sing and Glorify), the rich mingling of its eight five-voice choirs revealingly captured in the spacious clarity of surround sound, a process that could have been invented for this purpose. (This CD/SACD release is also available on DVD-Audio: CORDVD1.)

Harry Christophers’s booklet note explores the possible origins and recusant symbolism of this work, a theme even more potently expressed in Byrd’s motet ‘Deus venerunt gentes’. Another religious exclamation (but this time protesting against Puritan excesses in the Civil War), Tomkins’s grandly tortured outpouring ‘O God, the heathen are come’, is recorded for the first time in John Milsom’s reconstruction.


Sackbuts and cornetts add splendour to ceremonial items by Tallis and Gibbons, and in the hands of these skilled players also add their note of sublime grief to another Tomkins score: ‘Know you not’, a lament for Henry, Prince of Wales, that forms the emotional heart of this collection.