Hilliard Ensemble - Audivi Vocem
The Hilliards here return to familiar territory with a programme of Tallis, Tye and Sheppard. While the territory may be familiar, however, not all of its landmarks are, and neither is their disposition – this is an extremely well organised disc, surveying the impact that the musical aspects of the Reformation had in the first instance on English composers (what David Skinner aptly describes as “that musicologically grey period in the last decades of Henry VIII’s reign”). Thus, while all the works by Tallis (In ieiunio et fletu, Te lucis ante terminum, Audivi vocem and Salvator mundi, the latter given a particularly beautiful performance) are well known, they are set in the context of much more recondite material.
The rarities from Sheppard include the early Gaudete celicole omnes, whose constant flow almost suggests at times a kind of English Gombert, and later, clearly Henrician works, such as the marvellously luminous hymn Eterne rex, altissime. The music by Tye includes Omnes gentes plaudite, which may perhaps be considered relatively known, but the four sections of the Missa sine nomine from the Peterhouse part-books (whose missing tenor part has been reconstructed by Skinner) will, I suspect, be unknown even to most connoisseurs of this period, precisely on account of the missing voice. I trust that these beautifully blended performances will help to change this state of affairs, for it is an extremely impressive work, heralding the new, compact and more declamatory style with consummate skill. An outstanding release.