The King’s Singers, the superlative vocal sextet that has retained immaculate blend, perfect tuning and crystal diction...’ (The London Times, October 05) have combined one of the greatest vocal compositions of all time with modern recording technology and customary style to produce a truly stunning recording of Thomas Tallis’ Spem in alium. This is a unique opportunity to hear every part in Spem sung and recorded to perfection, with the six King’s Singers dividing the forty parts of Spem in alium between them, in this multi-track recording the disc is in full surround sound, and is a CD/SACD hybrid.
"This is not the first overdubbed Spem. The Kronos Quartet produced its own version many years ago, in which Tallis’s showpiece became something appreciably different from its usual incarnations. For many, the King’s Singers’ name, or mere curiosity, will be sufficient to justify buying this new record on the ‘suck it and see’ principle. But does the Kronos’s idea really transfer to voices?
I think not. Several things essential to Spem are lost in this necessarily artificial process. The use of a click track in recording the overdubs is unavoidable but it results in a rather unyielding, claustrophobic feel: the music just doesn’t breathe, and the entries of the full choir sound as though they’ve been compressed or otherwise tampered with. You can’t hear the click-track, of course, but the consonants (especially the plosives) occur with such metronomic regularity that in the tutti sections especially, it might as well have been left in. This is an unwelcome gain; and there is a loss in the play with space, which even with plain stereo is felt on any acoustic recording. Here movement of sound, even in the exchanges between choirs midway through the piece. The very point of Spem – that it is not just a paper exercise, a game of skill, but a rhetorically effective, dramatic work – is lost"
"The sterile recording conditions of this atmospheric and dramatic piece should really have detracted from the enjoyability of the disc, despite all the blend and beauty of sound associated with the King’s Singers. However, the multi-tracking of parts (the 40-parts cleverly shared between the six singers, splicing individual lines between the singers to ease the ear of the listener) and fake acoustics merely add clarity to a piece often muddied by the very elements that make it so impressive."
"The six King’s Singers have overdubbed themselves 34 more times to record Tallis’ 40-part motet. The soprano parts are weak, but otherwise it’s a bold and fascinating performance." ***