Tallis: Missa Puer natus est nobis

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tallis
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Tallis: Missa Puer natus est nobis
WORKS: Missa Puer natus est nobis; Salvator mundi, Domine; Puer natus est nobia (chant); Quod chorus vatum; Benedictus; Magnificat a 4; Audivi vocem de caelo; Videte miraculum
PERFORMER: The Cardinall’s Musick/Andrew Carwood
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 68026

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Thomas Tallis’s Mass on Puer natus is stylistically odd. It is for seven voices, it is mostly in low register, it has no solo sections of reduced scoring, and it is in duple time throughout. Moreover only three of its movements survive (almost) complete. It was probably written for combined English and Spanish musicians when Philip I visited England to marry the Catholic Queen Mary in 1554. However, the motets on the disc more faithfully mirror the changing  liturgical styles of the turbulent 16th century.

As one would expect from Andrew Carwood’s experienced group, these performances are professional and musical. The chants are superbly sung, the pace is well judged if a little brisk, and the expressive dissonances glide perfectly together. The recording itself is very skilled and there is no hint of muddiness in the passages in low pitch. In the English setting of the Benedictus the words are not always distinct (The Cardinall’s Musick goes for a slightly chewy High-Anglican enunciation), and not even the musical sensibilities of these performers can rescue the old-fashioned Magnificat from dullness. On the other hand they bring out the mysterious brilliance of some of Tallis’s apparently rambling part writing, especially in the superb Videte miraculum.

The Mass and two of the motets have also been recorded by the Tallis Scholars (Gimell, 2001), but the lumpy earlier recording is no match for this one.

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Anthony Pryer