Tallis: Missa Salve intemerata

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Missa Salve intemerata
PERFORMER: Winchester Cathedral Choir/David Hill; Philip Scriven (organ)
Tallis’s Missa Salve intemerata – one of his earliest surviving compositions – has until recently suffered from a deficient tenor part. It is recorded here in an edition that uses the votive antiphon on which it is based. And although this version from the Winchester Cathedral Choir is not a liturgical reconstruction of the Mass, its sections provide an effective frame for the interleaved Marian motets and Sarum chant Propers.


Vivid acoustics and mellifluous phrasing in the plainsong pieces evoke a calming contemplative atmosphere. In contrast, Hill carefully balances the upper and lower voices in Tallis’s jubilant polyphony, allowing the expressive details and key events in the course of the Mass to make their impact naturally. The pleas for mercy in the Gloria, the narration of Christ’s crucifixion in the Credo, the urgently devotional singing in the Sanctus and the affectionate tranquillity in the Agnus Dei are deeply touching.


The Winchester choristers are likewise effective in expressing this repertoire’s spiritual exuberance. The exemplary tonal finesse and beautifully judged dynamic response in the votive antiphon ‘Ave rosa sine spinis’ is striking. Elsewhere, they sing the Virgin’s praises in ‘Salve intemerata’ with irresistible verve, eloquently communicating Tallis’s lively delineation of the text’s abounding superlatives. Nicholas Rast