TALLIS Spem in alium
With Spem in alium (or, in its English guise, Sing and glorify), The Cardinall’s Musick conclude their Tallis explorations in style. The programming is on a par with the best instalments of the series: the placing of the lovely miniature God grant with grace just after the monumental Spem is very moving, and this In ieiunio is as fine an account of it as I can recall.
The rest of the recital alternates rarely heard selections (though I can do without the sets of Preces and Responses) and more familiar selections (O sacrum convivum, for instance), but naturally one’s interest gravitates toward Spem. As far as I’m aware, only one other recording (by I Fagiolini) has appeared since I surveyed its discography in the round in 2010, and this one also adds a new twist: the well-known contemporary report of its first performance, which suggests that it took place in a large hall rather than a church, sanctions the comparatively dry acoustic heard here. (If memory serves, the only other acoustic as dry as this is Michael Tippett’s with the Morley College Choir from 1948). Without the sonic ‘glue’ afforded them by lengthy reverberation, Carwood’s ensemble give the sense of an unfolding tapestry, and the sound recording holds detail and monumentality in fine balance (barring some strange ringing overtones at 2'32"). Some impetus is lost in the opening ‘Mexican wave’, but the first tutti grows organically out of what preceded, and the build-up preceding the pause at ‘in tribulatione’ is very nicely managed. But, apart from the awesome initial arrival on ‘Respice’, it’s a seamless rather than a dramatic view of Spem.
The only disappointment is that the English version, which concludes the disc, is not more contrasted in approach. Spem was revived for the inaugurations as Princes of Wales of both of James I’s sons early in the following century, but despite a slightly faster tempo, the celebratory overtones are not captured as thrillingly as on The Sixteen’s most recent account for Coro, which also gives both versions alongside each other.