Newly recorded in the round and in surround sound, Thomas Tallis’ 40-part motet, Spem in alium, one of the great landmarks of polyphony, forms the centre-piece of this dazzling CD. Under the theme, Music for Monarchs and Magnates’ The Sixteen draws together music by Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons and Thomas Tomkins, some of it never before recorded, some indeed not performed since the time of its writing. It explores the use of music for ceremonial, even propaganda purposes by the state, contrasted with the composers’ private use of biblical texts to give public vent to their own sometimes dangerous views in an England torn by political and religious strife.
Alongside the usual 40 voice setting of Spem in Alium is an English version of the same work - Sing and Glorify - which was adapted to an English text for King James I to honour his son Henry, the newly-annointed Prince of Wales. With cornetts, sackbuts, dulcians and organs in place of some voices, this is a glorious complement to the usual version.
"The Sixteen’s anthology of a century of royal repertoire composed for ’monarchs and magnates’ is the real thing: a masterpiece of detective work, rare repertoire and artful editing, and a fitting celebratoin of its first quarter-centruy devoted to early music."