Tallis Mass for four voices; Motets
This is a good selection of responsories, antiphons, hymns and other pieces by Tallis followed by his four-part Mass. A nice comprehensive choice for anyone not yet acquainted with the composer and at a budget price into the bargain. Don't be put off by the somewhat breathless approach to the Whitsunday Vespers responsory Loquebantur. The voices may sound a bit rough but the entries in this piece are spot on. Move on quickly, though, to the second piece, the antiphon Salvator mundi for the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Here the tempo and style are much happier; there is a greater sense of phrasing and the beauty of Tallis's slowly descending minor scales is fully revealed.
A number of the pieces chosen are sung alternatim with substantial sections in chant. These sections need to be shaped just as carefully as the polyphonic sections and weighted so as to obtain a reasonable balance with the polyphony—for together they should form a whole. I felt that the responsory which best realized this unity was the Purification Vespers responsory Videte miraculum, with chant notes worth approximately half the value of the tactus. But in general the tempo chosen for these passages was much too fast for this essential balance, and the singers would profit from a far greater familiarity with the chant in order to understand its structure.
Unfortunately the singers are poorly served by their choice of venue: the acoustics of the chapel of Wellington College tend to emphasize the somewhat unyielding quality of the singing—however joyful and full of energy. This is particularly noticeable in the Mass and in one of the more difficult pieces to bring off convincingly—that, to my mind, very difficult item, Sancte Deus.'