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Tallis: Spem in Alium /The Tallis Scholars · Phillips
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
--Thomas Tallis-
Thomas Tallis, born in 1505, was one of the outstanding liturgical composers of his day, being the acknowledged master of the composers of England from the time of Queen Mary's reign forward. He was a composer and Gentleman of the Chapel Royal during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth, and worked closely with many other composers, most particularly William Byrd. He was an organist in addition to composer. He died in 1585, having navigated his way through the tumultuous catholic/protestant difficulties of the church which provided his livelihood and creative outlet.
--Spem in alium--
This piece, Spem in alium numquam habui (I have no faith in any other [than God]), is Tallis' most famous piece. It is a 40-part motet, set up for eight five-part choirs. It is a masterpiece. Tallis blended the chordal with the polyphonic here, to great effect. The number of voices makes for interesting effects, particularly when done in cathedral settings. Several stories have appeared about why this work was composed, but in the end, it remains unknown.
--Other music--
Other pieces included on this disc include Tallis' Sancte Deus, one of his early works, done during the reign of Henry VIII, and two settings of Salvator mundi, salva nos. These are rather smaller pieces, particularly in comparison with Spem in alium. Gaude gloriosa is more in keeping with Spem in alium, in terms of length and phrasing. The Miserere is a seven-part technical masterpiece very close in form to traditional English canonical settings. The final piece, Loquebantur variis linguis, is a seven-voice chant.
--Liner Notes--
Being internationally acclaimed, the Tallis Scholars' CDs typically present their commentary and texts in English, French, German and Italian (together with any Latin texts); that is true of this disc. The cover art also typically represents visual arts contemporary with the compositions - here it is a piece from the Munich collection of Alte Pinakothek by Albrecht Durer in 1500, roughly contemporary with Tallis.
--The Tallis Scholars--
The Tallis Scholars, a favourite group of mine since the first time I heard them decades ago, are a group dedicated to the performance and preservation of the best of this type of music. A choral group of exceptional ability, I have been privileged to see them many times in public, and at almost every performance, their singing seems almost like a spiritual epiphany for me, one that defies explanation in words. Directed by Peter Phillips, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
Their recordings are of a consistent quality that deserve more than five stars; this particular disc of pieces by Thomas Tallis, the namesake of the group, deserves a place on the shelf of anyone who loves choral music, liturgical music or Gregorian chant, classical music generally, or religious music. It is remarkable, both in composition and performance. The original recording was made in 1985.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 16 September 2003
The Tallis Scholars made something of a splash with this disc. There wasn't a decent Spem recording on the market when it was released. Now there a many, most of which are better. The main flaw of this recording is the pitch. What was Philips thinking? The higher the better? A 40-part version of Allegri's Miserere? Tempo and dynamics are sound, as are the voices - 40 of the best session singers at the time.
Unlike the 'music fan' from Edinburgh, I found not a single work by Taverner. All Tallis motets follow. Salvator mundis are both great. Loquebantur was a favourite encore for the Scholars, and they perform it with verve. But the winner - Gaude gloriosa; by far the best work on the disc. This old-style Marian votive antiphon is reminiscent of the great late Mediaeval English School. There is more than a hint of Eton Choirbook. But Tallis has pushed the format to the point of High Renaissance. The result is perhaps Tallis's finest masterpiece. The Scholars are masters of this repertoire, and there are few better renditions.
I've had this disc for many years, but it's never gathered dust - must be a goodie.
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 27 February 2002
This forty five minute CD is dominated by the opening 10 minute "Spem in Alium". It is a wonderful piece of music, written for 40 different vocal parts. The piece starts with only a handful of voices but grows and swells as it progresses, at times melodic, occassionally very chordal. The Tallis Scholars handle it extremely well; the quiet, calmer sections with delicacy and the heavier sections with real power. The quality of the sound in this recording is excellent, washing over and around the listener. Given that it was designed to be sung be 8 choirs of 5 singers located around a cathedral, one can only imagine the effect when it is performed live.
The other peices on this recording are a well-balanced selection from Tavener's other work, ranging from the structured "Salvator Mundi" the the short but sublime "Misere Nostri". Again, the Tallis Scholars sing them all appropriately, and the sound quality is excellent throughout. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You may like to know that this excellent disc has been reissued as part of a superb 2CD set at budget price. The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis / Spem In Alium Below is my review of that double-CD set:

I have found "You can't go wrong with The Tallis Scholars" to be a pretty reliable guide over the last 30 years. This double CD is a re-issue of the best of their 3 discs of Tallis's music from the 1980s, and bears that out fully.

This is my favourite version of the great 40-part motet Spem in alium - and that's against some pretty stiff competition, too. Similarly, Gaude gloriosa is magnificently sung, and the smaller-scale works are exquisite. I intend, quite seriously, to have this version of Miserere nostri played at my funeral - it is indescribably beautiful and moving. There are also lovely versions of many of Tallis's English Anthems, including the tune from Archbishop Parker's Psalter upon which Vaughan Williams based his famous Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. It's a gem of a double CD.

The Lamentations of Jeremiah is very well sung, but I have to say that, even as a very long-term Tallis Scholars fan, I prefer the recently reissued version by The Taverner Consort Tallis: Spem in alium · Latin Church Music /Taverner Consort & Choir · Parrott. Nevertheless, this set is very warmly recommended as a marvellous collection of some of the finest recordings of Tallis available, and at a bargain price. You really can't go wrong.
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on 19 March 2015
A first rate production and cd
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2012
Better to buy The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis - a brilliant 2CD set at a lower price
The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis

This album includes "Spem in alium" the single that is #1 in the UK Classical Singles Chart thanks to the controversial literary sensation "50 Shades of Grey" by E L James who said "I am delighted to have introduced so many of my readers to this amazing 16th century piece of music, it is absolutely wonderful and the recording from the Tallis Scholars is particularly special. A deserved number one !!"
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 2014
Wonderful
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