Signum Records presents a world first – a CD single, from a new edition of the magnificent 40-part Thomas Tallis motet Spem in Alium and the English version Sing and Glorify.
Spem in alium is surely not just the greatest of all Thomas Tallis’ musical achievements, but one of the great musical compositions of all time. Writing for 40 independent voices, Thomas Tallis created a noble and imaginative masterpiece.
The earliest surviving manuscript of this great work, the Egerton manuscript, is laid out with an English rendition, Sing and glorify heaven’s high majesty. The English words are not a translation of the Latin, but a new poem written as a syllable-for-syllable replacement.
Click here to hear the opening of Sing and Glorify (2.7Meg)
The new editions of both these works were launched by Chapelle du Roi at a concert at St.John’s Smiths Square in 2001 before being recorded for Signum Records. Until then Sing and Glorify had not been performed in this country for more than twenty years, since the evening before the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer.
The exciting young vocal ensemble Chapelle du Roi, whose recordings of the complete works of Thomas Tallis for Signum Records have gained widespread acclaim, here present a recording based on an entirely new edition researched from original sources by Chapelle du Roi’s director, Alistair Dixon.
".... now its funny how our perceptions of pieces change - its not that long ago that any new recording of Thomas Tallis’s 40 part motet Spem in Alium had the red carpet rolled out for it. Any live performance of it was an event and the cause of considerable nervousness among the singers, mustered usually from Oxbridge for the occasion. Twenty years on performances scarcely raise an eyebrow and there are about 15 recordings around as well as numerous singers for whom its all in a day’s work. Correction sixteen recordings, and see if you can hear right from the start this new one’s special claim for your attention.
Spem in Alium, but not as we know it. Tallis’s magnificent 40 part motet in English, not Latin, and no its not a translation which is probably just as well as some people I know maintain that it means "Spam in Aluminium". No, this is Sing and Glorify Heaven’s Majesty the text that was laid out in the earliest surviving manuscript of the piece produced for the coronation of Henry Prince of Wales in 1610 and used also two years later for Charles’ coronation with his name substituted for Henry’s in the last line of the text.
And this is part of Alistair Dixon’s group Chapelle du Roi’s ongoing complete Tallis series for Signum. They have recorded Spem twice in Latin and English for volumes 7 and 8 of the series but they’ve had the engaging idea of putting both side by side on a sort of two track Thomas Tallis CD single. And you don’t get many of those.
Its a fine recording as well, beautifully captured in the wide open spaces of All Hallows church in Gospel Oak in North London. ..."
"Tallis’s 40-part motet Spem in alium, whatever the occasion for which it was written, is a work that astonishes afresh whenever one hears it. There have been a number of remarkable recordings of the work (those by The Clerkes of Oxenford, The Tallis Scholars, Pro Cantione Antiqua and Magnificat come to mind), and this new version by Chapelle du Roi must join them.
Not only does Alistair Dixon shape the music beautifully, but he has a first-rate team of singers who respond to the music’s every nuance. This opinion is only confirmed by the coupling of the work with its English-texted contrafactum, Sing and glorify, probably written for the royal coronations in 1610 and 1616, of Henry and Charles respectively.
Anyone who believes the vocal counterpoint of this period to be essentially abstract should be immediately disabused of this idea on hearing Sing and glorify. While Chapelle du Roi make an excellent case for it, there is no disguising the conflict between Tallis’s music and the vocal colours of the English text. It’s a useful and clever re-working of an amazing piece, but it does great damage to the original, and for precisely that reason, we should be very grateful to Chapelle du Roi for recording the two versions side by side, thus making such a direct comparison possible.
While the cover of the disc is outstandingly horrible, the notes and recording quality are of as high a quality as the singing itself. Recommended."