Thomas Tallis: Lamentations and other sacred music

The Cardinall’s Musick, Andrew Carwood
Hyperion CDA68121

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Cardinall’s Musick’s superb Tallis Edition for Hyperion has reached the Lamentations, and this CD opens with a magisterial account of this beguiling music for male voices as intended. My initial surprise at the very measured tempo Carwood chooses was short-lived as the singers found a magnificently measured line through Tallis’s score, investing the text with a moving power and drama. I was reminded of my surprise discovery as a child that the finest melismas were reserved for the initial Hebrew letters, the musical equivalent of colourful illuminated initials, and the singers give these too their full expression. The strategy of the projected complete recording is very much to ‘mix things up’, so we have settings of Latin and English texts from throughout the composer’s long career cheek by jowl, which has the advantage of showing the full range of Tallis’s compositional styles, although it necessarily involves a bewildering mix of religious contexts. Alongside magnificent readings of early votive antiphons from the reign of Henry VIII, we have simpler Elizabethan Anglican music, including two of the Psalm tunes for Archbishop Parker’s Psalter, given terrifically muscular performances. I found myself longing for the further muscularity of Tudor pronunciation – once heard ‘authentically’ pronounced, I have consistently found received pronunciation inadequate. These are generally powerful readings of this mainly familiar material, with mercifully only occasional moments of soprano vibrato, which I detected sneaking into previous performances by the Cardinall’s Musick, and sustained passages of magnificently sonorous singing.

D. James Ross

A second review of this disc was also submitted. In this case, both agreed on fives across the board:

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]y reaction is very positive. I don’t have my copy of Tudor Church Music  vol. 6 (1928) at hand, but I have long been familiar with the Latin music, especially the opening two items – I think we sang them at my last year at Dulwich College in 1957/58, and I bought an LP about as soon as they were available. Tallis had a more erratic style than Byrd, which drew attention to the ear. I’m almost certain that the singing is at the notated pitch – I don’t think there are chiavetti – and they give solid sounds, with a variety that didn’t go so far as to drop into anything approaching piano! Speeds are quicker than they used to be: so much the better! The words are more audible than most, despite the polyphony. Singers are named above each of the texts, most items being for one or two to a part. This is an ideal recording: do buy it.

Clifford Bartlett

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