ALBUM TITLE: John Taverner: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas
WORKS: Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas; Magnificats for four, five and six voices
PERFORMER: The Tallis Scholars/ Peter Phillips
CATALOGUE NO: CDGIM 045
It would be hard to think of a more fitting work to celebrate The Tallis Scholars’ 40th anniversary than Taverner’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, a towering monument of 16th-century English polyphony that showcases the ensemble’s singers, from the soaring sopranos to the sepulchral basses. With its wide-ranging vocal registers and long-breathed polyphonic lines, the Mass demands an extraordinary degree of virtuosity as well intense concentration and stamina throughout its 40 or so minutes.
This performance is characterised by the Scholars’ precision and sheer beauty of sound. The stratospheric treble line (sung here by female voices) dominates the texture, occasionally at the expense of the lower parts, but the lingering effect is seraphic. For a richer sound, consider The Sixteen on the Helios label, or for a more authentic performance with boy trebles, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford (Nimbus and Avie).
The CD also includes Taverner’s three settings of the Magnificat; the two that survive incomplete have been convincingly reconstructed here. The choral virtuosity does not let up – the six-voice setting, in particular, is a real tour de force with its intricate, spiralling lines. Peter Phillips imbues these readings of Mary’s canticle with a responsive mix of joy, reverence and humility, qualities that have characterised his direction through four decades of glorious music making.