TALLIS Mass for Four Voices. Ave, rosa sine spinis
This very enjoyable series continues its sequence of motets and hymns, with a Mass as the centerpiece – this time the setting for four voices, the most direct and pared down of Tallis’s output. It is instructive to compare this new recording with The Hilliard Ensemble’s some 25 years ago, for the two could hardly be more different. The Hilliards sing one to a part and in a recessed acoustic that blunts their incisive approach; The Cardinall’s Musick sing as a choir but their sound is compact in a different way (notably more relaxed), and the sound recording suits them better. The Benedictus and Agnus Dei are perhaps overly reverential: here I prefer The Hilliards’ approach, which emphasises the cycle’s continuity. But in other respects, The Cardinall’s Musick give a very well-judged account of one of Tallis’s most economical works.
The Mass is a world away from the votive antiphon, exemplified here by the early Ave, rosa sine spinis. A touch formulaic in places, it is nonetheless worth hearing, for it shows off the ensemble’s more athletic side. For the rest, there are splendid performances here: with O salutaris hostia, Laudate Dominum and Euge caeli porta the composer is in his essential idiom, to which The Cardinall’s Musick respond with poise and precision; and they are equally at home in the settings from Archbishop Parker’s psalter, where a forthright unanimity is required. A very welcome issue, then; and it’s always nice to know that there’s more to come.