"To hear the third volume in this fascinating series is almost like taking a step backwards in time. Mary is the ruling monarch, and England is once again nominally a Catholic nation. One cannot help but wonder at the skills, emotions and devices of the composers of this era in not only keeping their positions, but also their heads! Tallis of course had no difficulty in resuming his own professed faith, and the music on this disc shows what an effect a return to catholicism had upon him.
Like the first disc in the series, the pieces are almost monastic in character, and as the list of works shows, quite a lot of plainsong is used. The main reason for this is that the seven part Mass Puer natus est nobis is only mostly complete. The Gloria is known in toto but the Sanctus and Agnus dei have required a small amount of restoration. The Credo is mostly missing, so the three complete movements of the Mass on this disc are surrounded by the plainchant proper of the third Mass of Christmas, from which the introit Puer natus is taken, before it features as the cantus firmus of the polyphony (incidentally a most unusual feature for this period of music).
As before, the Chapelle du Roi fulfil their part admirably for the most part; the chanting in the plainsong is particularly good, and the understanding and unison amongst the men of the choir is excellent. They also move the notes along in a fashion which whilst never lingering, never sounds hurried. The slight echo in St. Jude’s church certainly gives that monastic feel to the music. The Mass in its three main sections shows some wonderful and rich polyphony, but also features writing for smaller numbers of voices in parts, giving intriguing contrasts. The group cope well and project some appealing light and shade. As usual, the intonation is excellent and the music appears to float through the air but in perfect rhythm.
The two motets Beati immaculati and Suscipe quaeso are equally well sung in their 5 and 7 voice settings respectively. The final item Caude gloriosa, a massive votive antiphon, is the only piece to cause me slight doubts. It is certainly high throughout with these demands falling, naturally enough, on the sopranos. Their boyish voices at times sound strained. This is not to say that they are out of tune; they are not. In fact they manage the difficulties of this prolonged piece marvellously well. Just occasionally, however, they show their human frailties. Nick Sandon in his excellent booklet does not say what pitch is being used, and this may be a contributory factor. The only other quibble is that, as with volume 1, the voices of the singers are not identified on a piece by piece basis. Otherwise the standard of production and scholarly research is excellent. The recording is of the same truthful and warm sound as the previous ones in this series. This is a series well worth investigating and collecting. It adds joyfully to our knowledge of this period of English polyphony."
MuiscWebInternational - January 2003
"Tallis’s ‘Puer nobis’ mass I some of the landmark works of the English 16th century. Written in about the middle of the century, it is a fusion of musical features, some of which looked back to composers from earlier in the century and some of which were thoroughly modern and are found later on in the works of such composers as Robert White. I often find that music for Sarum Rite of Queen Mary’s reign is more emotionally affecting than other music from that century, and none more so than Tallis’s mass. Everyone should have a recording, and this one is excellent.
I suppose the listener might be forgiven for mistaking CHappelle du Roi for a number of other British mixed-voice early music ensembles, but )for once) this is not through any significant overlap of personnel; I suppose it is more a question of influence. This is not to detract from them – the sound is finely honed and balanced, in the British tradition, and thus very easy on the ear.
The other ‘great’ work on the disc is the massive votive antiphon ‘Gaude gloriosa’, and there are also two less familiar motets. I should add that the mass (or its surviving movements – there is no ‘Credo’) is performed ‘liturgically’, with plainchant appropriate to its cantus firmus, from the third Mass of Christmas; an added bonus. This is wonderful music, wonderfully sung."
"Despite its name, Chapelle du Roi is a British vocal group made up of malleable young singers dedicated to the performance of Renaissance church music. They make a beautiful sound, as anyone can hear on this projected series of nine CDs covering the music of Thomas Tallis.
This third and most recent CD includes music written during the reign of Bloody Mary (1553 – 1558), who returned the country to Catholicism, so all the music is in Latin which the singers pronounce in the old-fashioned English schoolboy way with hard Gs, soft Cs and Js as proper Js rather than Italian Ys. ‘Beati Immaculati’ opens with clean counter-tenors rising with sexless potency, the female sopranos flying like high-wire artists on the strong but implicit pulse, the young tenors personifying innocence and the dark basses fastening the entire, impressive ensemble to earth. Their plainchant has perfect stereo balance with solo voices as anonymous as cowled monks. It is as calm as incense and far better than you will hear on any hyped and marketed ‘Gregorian’ disc. Tallis wrote the Mass ‘Puer Natus Est Nobis (A Boy is Born To Us)’ at the time of Queen Mary’s marriage to Philip II of Spain in 15554. The title reflected Catholic hopes that an heir would ensue. None did. The father of English music composed his finest music in this mass. The contrapunctal lines flow like jets in a fountain, just as they do in the long votive antiphon ‘Gaude Gloriosa Dei Mater’ at the end of the disc. Alistair Dixon, the conductor and founder of Chapelle du Roi, has shaped a remarkably beautiful CD here. The entire series is a great and overdue enterprise. Who said Tallis is dead?"
Evening Standard - 19 November 1998
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