"Staying in the sacred sphere, Chapelle du Roi continues its stately progress through the complete works of Thomas Tallis. Volume six (of a projected nine) showcases Tallis’ music for the nascent Anglican Church, including some of the earliest English anthems and settings of the Preces and Responses. The "completist" urge behind the recording inevitably means that a few items are not "concert-friendly", being working liturgical music (for example the repetitive ten commandments); the programme is also inevitably - in a generous 78 minutes only one item exceeds five minutes’ duration. On the other hand , many pieces are rarely recorded and many (including the Canticles and Ordinary movements) are of high quality.
This recording reminds us of how fortunate the Anglican church was in having Tallis to compose music that met its demands for a pared down, vernacular style. Tallis is never drab; he is always cogent, economical, direct. The anthems, including Purge me, O Lord, and Verily, verily are an ardent well-tuned sheet. The opening Christ rising is splendidly exuberant. Throughout, the the well-blended ensemble has a robust "Anglican" suavity that never descends into feyness. Buy this disc, but for balance, also obtain at least one volume of the mature Latin-texted music - for that surely is where Tallis’ heart lay."
Early Music Today - February/March 2004
"How the master found his voice, in spite of being bound in musical shackles
The sixth volume of Tallis’s complete works is primarily of historical interest. It gathers together music composed by the master of the reduced liturgy of the English services - Matins, Evensong and Holy Communion - which follows the passing of the Act of Uniformity in 1549. For a composer of such musical marvels as the 40-part Spem in Alium, it was excessively restricting to have had to conform, in this early Anglican liturgy, to the principle of one note for one syllable, avoiding any melodic elaboration that might risk obscuring the sense of the text. This recital offers the rare chance of judging how successfully Tallis meets the challenge.
The programme includes settings of the responses, the Preces and the collects, the principal canticles, and a few scriptural sentences (Christmas and Easter), some pieces from the Ordinary, a selection of English anthems, examples of psalmody, including harmonised 16th-century versions of each of the Eight Psalm tones (the ’Tunes’ fpr Archbishop Parker’s metrical rhyming Psalter), and finally Tallis’s well-known Ordinal invoking the Holy Spirit.
Tallis displays his musical craftsmanship again and again within the restricting limits of his remit. He often adopts the recurring pattern of a singe musical phrase sung twice with different words each time, and followed by new musical phrases treated in the same way, with slightly varied repetition but different words. This enables him to to cover a long-ish evolving text and yet retain a sense of shape. There is also frequently a straight-forward repetition of a whole sentence, usually the last, with both words and music. The anthems, some of them contrafacta of earlier Latin motets, permit more freedom of style, with imitation and sometimes including regular metre.
Confronted with this material, Chapelle du Roi’s skill is manifest. They relish the moments when the monotony of style gives way to the occasional embellished cadence, or the few chance imitative entries. In general, though, they obediently toe the line, clearly and distinctly pronouncing every word of the text. I savoured most the gentle setting of the Nunc dimittis with its wonderful cadence, sung softly at a very moderate pace. The whole experience of listening to them was like hearing a rather special evensong in a college chapel (with no sermon) lasting just over and hour and a quarter."
Gramophone - March 2004
"However well we think we know a composer’s music, it seems that there is always something to learn. This is certainly the case with Thomas Tallis, that mysterious figure who was a true musical pragmatist, concealing real religious feelings (whatever they may have been) composing just what was necessary to keep him in the good books of four very different monarchs. Tallis is loved for a relatively small proportion of his output, and Alistair Dixon is doing us a great service by recording and publishing his complete works.
This CD, the sixth in a projected series of nine volumes, covers perhaps the most difficult portion of Tallis’ output (in the sense that is less musically interesting that the works for which he is best known): settings for te early Anglican church. These are short works that follow to the very letter the demand that the music be ’plain and distinct’ and syllabic. Plain it certainly is, but Chapelle du Roi tackles it with care and attention, given the desired weight to the words and managing not to sound bored (for this must indeed be dull music to record). The anthems that follow the liturgical works give the singers freer reign, with more expressive music that, among other benefits, allows the the sopranos out of the ’mean’ range for the first time on the disc. But my favourite items appear at the end, Tallis’ tunes to eight of Archbishops Parker’s flowery (and often unintelligible) metrical psalm translations: these, for me, are the Anglican Tallis at his miniaturist best.
The line-up of singers in this incarnation of Chapelle du Roi is extraordinary: some of them have become major stars since the disc was recorded three years ago, but even then they had very distinctive voices which here, somehow, manage to cohere in a warm collective that is wonderful to listen to. John Morehen’s notes tackle well the difficulty of putting this music in a historical context, but also reflect some confusion over the disc’s content in the final stages of production.
While this recording may be a little too ’bitty’ for the casual listener, I would heartily recommend it to the specialist, and to anyone who would like to know more about Tallis, the composer of many faces."
International Record Review - January 2004
"This ongoing project by the excellent British choir Chapelle du Roi to record all of Tallis’s music here includes one-word-per-note homophonic anthems and chants for the Anglican church, His best-known tunes are among the 33 tracks. Canon (with juicy flattened sevenths in the alto) Ordinal and Why fumeth in fight (of which Vaughan Williams famously made variations) are sung with plaintive simplicity, exquisite balance and clear diction, virtues that characterise the whole estimable disc."
Classic FM Magazine - December 2003
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