Tallis: The Lamentations of Jeremiah

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Delphian
WORKS: The Lamentations of Jeremiah; plus choral works by Ferrabosco the Younger, Byrd, Parsley and Mundy
PERFORMER: Lay Clerks of St George’s Chapel/Timothy Byram-Wigfield


Lamentation verses nourished the imagination of English composers throughout the 16th and 17th century, evoking intense musical responses. This disc explores settings by composers known (Tallis, Byrd) and unknown, and includes premiere recordings of Lamentations by Alfonso Ferrabosco the Younger and John Mundy.

The contrasts of style, structure and dramatic emphasis between these different settings highlight the peculiarities of each composer and of his generation. Which is more haunting: the earlier practice of using strict imitation to build magisterially, or the later practice of coupling loose counterpoint with homophony for momentary effects?

The vocalists on this recording decide for us. Here the prize is carried by the later generation, particularly by John Mundy, whose music inspires the performers’ most profound reading. His composition – indebted somewhat to the practices of his father, William – combines rhapsodic elaboration and homophony to create a unique, if slightly weird, fusion of archaic Tudor traditions and contemporary musical rhetoric.

Out of this, the vocalists create a driving, exuberant sound world in which any sense of the words set by the music appear to be abandoned and affect is gorgeously illuminated through dynamic swells, shifting pulses and vocal colours.


Elsewhere, however, the commitment of the lay clerks of Windsor Castle slackens, notably in their somewhat formulaic interpretation of Byrd’s Lamentations. The liveliness of the acoustic occasionally slips from the engineers’ control, creating imbalances between the outer voices. That said, this disc’s splendid reconstruction of unexplored repertory fully justifies its price. Berta Joncus