Silver - The Best of The Tallis Scholars

Author: 
David Fallows

Silver - The Best of The Tallis Scholars

  • Miserere mei
  • Ave Maria, gratia plena
  • Sicut lilium inter spinas I
  • Praeter rerum seriem
  • Pater peccavi
  • Ego flos campi
  • Tota pulchra es
  • Descendi in ortum meum
  • Salve regina mater
  • Alma redemptoris mater
  • Ave regina caelorum
  • Missa, 'Et ecce terrae motus'
  • Media vita
  • In manus tuas
  • O nata lux de lumine
  • Audivi vocem de caelo
  • Exaudiat te Dominus
  • Ah, Robin
  • Salve regina
  • Mass for five voices
  • Cantiones, quae ab argumento sacrae vocantur, Tribue, Domine (6vv)
  • Absalon fili mi
  • Gaude Virgo, Mater Christi
  • Adolescentulus sum ego
  • Vox patris caelestis
  • Salve regina
  • O sacrum convivium
  • Gaude plurimum

These recordings mark 25 years from the first concert that Peter Phillips directed, including three singers who are still associated with The Tallis Scholars. Their first record came out in 1976 (which I remember clearly, as it came with a kind note from the unknown young conductor to the reviewer who had just written his first Gramophone pieces), so there may be more celebrations in 2001. But there is already much to celebrate. They have surely contributed more than any other group to making renaissance choral music with mixed voices a commercial reality. Phillips writes: “All the music sung here benefits from clarity, both in the singing and the surrounding building”; and that ideal, relatively new in 1973, has perhaps been the main factor in their astonishing success.
Other factors are the consistently flawless balance and the extraordinary musical flexibility of their best singers. There are listeners who have become tired of what can seem their perfection-above-all-else approach. So this is perhaps a moment to remember that we are exceptionally lucky to have The Tallis Scholars, as well as the other ensembles that have arisen from their lead. There are other ways of doing the music, but enormous quantities of renaissance polyphony have been recorded in the last quarter century by English groups in performances of a stunningly high musical quality. My guess is that future listeners will look back on this as a golden age, largely fuelled by The Tallis Scholars.
Both anthologies cover the most significant of their repertory, English and mainland-continental from about 1480 to the end of the sixteenth century. The “Live in Oxford” disc suffers from a few tentative entries (though no audience noise, which is slightly puzzling: what is meant by “live”?), but is consistently exciting, from the glorious opening six-voice Salve regina of Obrecht to the wonderful 18-minute Vox patris caelestis of William Mundy. The two-disc retrospective opens with their famous 1980 recording of the Allegri Miserere and includes many of my own favourites from their output, among them the Gloria from their beautifully clear and muscular reading of the Brumel Et ecce terrae motus Mass and the whole of their 1984 recording of Byrd’s five-voice Mass. Plenty to celebrate then; and plenty to look forward to in the future.'

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