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Magnificat - Spem in alium - Fanfare

01 November 2014
James A. Altena

This reissue contains recordings made in 1995 (the seven motets), 1997 (Spem in alium), and 2000 (the Mass), and issued in the last-named year. Somehow it escaped review in these pages at that time, which is a terrible shame, for these are renditions of astonishing beauty. Tallis ranks alongside Giovanni Gabrieli and Heinrich Schütz as one of my most adored pre-Bach composers, and the Spem in alium stands with Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil as one of my two favourite pieces of a cappella choral music. I have multiple recordings of Tallis's 40-part masterpiece, with those by the Tallis Scholars, The Sixteen, and the Winchester Cathedral Choir ranking as particular favorites - and for a total combination of clarity of individual parts, mass of combined sound, and devotional intensity, this version tops them all. The performances of the other works, such as the arresting O salutaris hostia and the profoundly moving Lamentations, are equally ravishing. Among the many accomplished vocal ensembles and directors presently devoted to performing and recording Renaissance polyphony, Philip Cave and Magnificat stand out for an exquisite balance of clarity of diction, balance of parts, sweetness of timbre, and interpretive expressiveness. Were this a new release, it would surely claim a space on my 2014 Want List. I do have [a] minor complaint about the printed materials in this release: no list of participating singers is provided...however, get this disc without delay; it should be a cornerstone of any collection of the music of Tallis in particular and Renaissance sacred polyphony in general. Highest possible recommendation.

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