COMPOSERS: Christopher Tye
ALBUM TITLE: Tye
WORKS: Missa Euge bone; Western Wynde Mass; Give almes of thy goods; Christ rising; Peccavimus cum patribus nostris
PERFORMER: The Choir of Westminster Abbey/James O’Donnell
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67928
‘England one god, one truth, one doctor hath for music’s art – and that is Dr Tye.’ So Henry VIII lauded Christopher Tye, composer and master of the choristers at Ely Cathedral during the mid-16th century. Featured here are two of Tye’s settings of the Mass – the seamlessly composed and, at times, idiosyncratic Western Wynde Mass and the resplendent Euge bone – as well as motets, including the lush seven-voice Peccavimus cum patribus nostris and some terser English settings, in which Tye shows a laconic but heartfelt response to the reformed Church of England. The music is characterised by long-spun polyphonic wefts, specked with biting dissonances and false relations, quirky interrupted cadences and disconcerting harmonic twists.
Over the last dozen years, James O’Donnell has forged a distinctive sound with the Westminster Abbey choristers, and they are on crack form here, near flawless in ensemble and intonation. The trebles perform with real fervour, their sheer, plangent sound complemented by the dusky lower voices. O’Donnell responds to the texts in shaping the unbroken melodic lines, and draws readings that are ardent (at the climax of Peccavimus), radiant (in Quaesumus omnipotens), candid (in the Nunc dimittis) and celestial (in the Benedictus of the Missa Euge bone).
Hyperion’s resonant recording evokes lofty sacred spaces, though arguably the tenors and basses are a touch distant.