I bought the LP of this wonderful recording in the early 80s after hearing a snippet on the radio and it absolutely transfixed me with its sheer beauty. It still does. There have been dozens of recordings of Allegri's Miserere since then, many of them very fine, but none has surpassed this groundbreaking performance, in my view. Recorded in the perfect acoustic of Merton College Chapel, Oxford and beautifully sung with an ideal separation and balance of the choirs, it has a limpid, spiritual loveliness with an undertow of passion which makes the whole thing glow from start to finish.
The disc also features Mundy's colossal motet Vox Patris caelestis and another landmark recording, this time of Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli. The Tallis Scholars' full-voiced, vibrato-free and perfectly balanced performance really makes this wonderful music blaze with power and tenderness as appropriate - for example, the two colossal "Amens" which conclude the Gloria and the Credo are simply stunning. The fabulous beauty of Palestrina's music shines out of this recording, and the disc would be worth buying for this mass alone.
This recording has given me huge pleasure for getting on for 30 years and continues to do so. Now it is at budget price it is an absolute snip, and is recommend very warmly indeed.
on 25 April 2001
This absolutely beautiful disc was my very first introduction to the glories of polyphonic music some 10 years ago now,and I can think of no better way,for someone who is taking their first tentative steps into the profoundly deep and rewarding ocean of early music,to get their feet wet in a marvellous wash of sound that goes far beyond a mere physical sensation in it's impact.
Allegri's "Miserere" is very well known in some excellent versions,featuring astonishingly poised boy trebles soaring effortlessly up to those goose-bump inducing high Cs.However,the version on this CD,is something quite apart and special from the norm,as it is a girl (the ethereal Alison Stamp) who takes and basks in the solo limelight.Also,the director of the Tallis Scholars,Peter Phillips,had the brilliant notion of seperating out the choir into two parts,and placing them at opposite ends of the recording venue of Merton College Chapel.Not only does this exploit the admirable acoustics of the building to the full,but it makes the piece come across almost like a dialogue between the "Earth" of the main choir and the "Heaven" of the solo group,who send up the high C like some kind of beautiful benediction on their brethren below.Lovely stuff,and as atmospheric a performance as I've ever come across of this little "miracle" in music.
Yet despite all that,I think that the stunning performance of Palestrina's gorgeous "Missa Papae Marcelli" may turn out to be the main reason that you will come to cherish this recording.From it's oh so sublime "Kyrie" to the soul-stirring raptures of that matchless "Sanctus" and two part "Agnus Dei",it is undoubtedly the most approachable and enchanting of all polyphonic settings of the Mass.The Scholars did a fine live version in their sojourn to Rome some years later to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the great composer's death,but personally speaking I find that one a shade too "driven" for my taste,and I nearly always return to the more laid-back seraphic sweetness of this earlier outing.
Sandwiched between the twin peaks of pleasure that Allegri and Palestrina were so kind as to bestow upon the world,is the "Vox Patris Caelestis" (The voice of the Heavenly Father) of our own home grown talent,William Mundy.It is directly contemporary with the "Missa Papae...", and perhaps at first listen doesn't have the immediate appeal of those paradigms,yet it does reap dividends on deeper acquaintance,and is the perfect "sonic bridge" between the paradisiacal poles of the other items.Also,the producers of the CD should be patted on the back for that well-judged interval of contemplative silence that follows the impressive final Amen of Mundy's masterpiece,and therefore allows us to collect our thoughts before the Mass steals so gently upon our ears,hearts and souls.
Yes,this is a disc that belongs in everyone's collection (Classical lover or not) and if it doesn't immediately leap on to your desert island short-list,I'll get ready to make my hat the main course in my next meal !
Part of the power of the Miserere lies in its basic simplicity, which is one of the fundamental building blocks of spirituality. Indeed, legend has it that the Pope once decreed that it could only be performed at the Vatican, and only under conditions of special care due to its spiritual power. Legend continues that this monopoly was broken when Mozart (as a child) heard the piece and, from one hearing only, transcribed the music into print form and distributed it from there. Perhaps this is an embellishment, but it is a romantic story befitting the piece. The Miserere is based on Psalm 51 (Allegri's setting is but one of many), the great penitential psalm of the Lenten season. This sombre and searching spirituality permeates the music from start to finish. The high piercing notes recalling the piercing guilt and the pierced Christ cry over the mixture of voices that produce a most exquisite grumble of humanity in search of God.
--Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli-
Written at least a generation prior to Allegri's Miserere, Palestrina's Mass for Pope Marcellus II is likewise a composition in search of the absolute and absolving God. Reacting to an overly ornate liturgy of the Roman Catholic church in the face of popular and growing Reformation types, Palestrina became a great champion for music that preserved both the grandeur of the liturgy as well as the accessibility of the message and language for the people. The lower vocals make the Mass a part of the people, rather than existing on high, inaccessible.
--William Mundy's Vox Patris caelestis-
Mundy's work is roughly contemporary with that of Palestrina (mid to late 1500s). The Vox Patris caelestis (the voice of the heavenly Father) is a decidedly Catholic English composition, which places it during the reign of Mary. Mundy was in many ways opposite from Palestrina - clarity of words and simplicity of music were secondary concerns, if concerns at all.
All of these pieces are glorious polyphonic compositions of extraordinary power and grace. Taken as a set, they make a wonderful snapshot of Roman Catholic/high Anglican sensibility from the time of religious upheaval due to the Reformation.
--The Tallis Scholars-
The Tallis Scholars 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, the Miserere by Allegri is expected and delivered with near-flawless grace. Directed by Peter Phillips, the group consists of a small number of male and female singers who have trained themselves well to their task.
This recording deserves more than five stars; it deserves a place on the shelf of anyone who loves choral music, liturgical music or Gregorian chant, classical music generally, or religious music. When listening, fair warning: prepare to be moved.
on 30 May 2010
The Allegri Miserere is just perfect. The splitting of the choir into two locations makes one feel like one is there listening to a live performance. The soloist just soars to the top notes where so many other recordings have an unfortunate glissando to some extent. The location was well chosen as the acoustic is amazing for this piece.
The Tallis Scholars, formed in 1973 by director Peter Phillips, are specialists in Renaissance polyphony and in particular the works of Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina and Gregorio Allegri. They are today considered one of the leading exponents of sacred polyphonic singing.
This CD was released in 2005 to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of what was considered the finest recording of Allegri's `Miserere', and for some people it remains the best of its type. Three works are performed, all recorded at the Merton College Chapel, Oxford in 1980, and all representing the finest in Renaissance unaccompanied sacred music.
The first piece, the hugely popular `Miserere', is actually (in terms of composition) a relatively simple work using the text from Psalm No. 51 and working it to great effect by placing different parts of the choir at different areas in the church. The acoustics and the placement of the individual parts being key to the success of the effect, as demonstrated to perfection on this recording.
The second piece, `Voz Patris caelestis' is just one of English composer William Mundy's many works scored during the 1550's, and compliments well with the following Palestrina piece written around the same time.
`Missa Papae Marcelli' is today one of Palestrina's most popular and recognisable works. This is my favourite of the CD and I think it remains one of the finest examples of late Renaissance polyphonic music with its melodic and flowing style which would surely have influenced heavily the direction of music towards the great Baroque composers such as Corelli, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel.
The 24 page booklet provides a short narration of the works by Peter Phillips, a biography of the Tallis Scholars including names of all the singers, and a translation into English of all the libretti to the works.
Beautiful performances and great 1980 recordings, still the ones to own.
on 5 April 2011
There are Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Archangels and Angels. To this ethereal list must be added the Tallis Scholars.
When the opening soaring responce "Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea et a pecato meo munda me". I'm sure even the the Lord God Almighty may pause in his work of creation and smile at the magnificence of his work.
This is before we hear William Mundy Vox Patris caelestis.
Lock yourself in a dark room and observe your cares and worries float away along with the soaring acoustics found in Merton Chapel.
on 25 December 2009
There are such good, insightful and informative reviews on here already that it doesn't need another, even if I was competent to give one (which I'm not), but I wanted to add my five stars. I would give this more than five stars if I could. If you have had a stressful and anxiety-ridden day, put this on in a quiet room and sit down and wait for the wonderful sense of serenity take you over, as all the tenseness is washed away and the troubles of the day are put back into perspective. As with one or two of the other reviewers, I originally bought this for the Miserere, but, for me, Mundy's Vox Patris Caelestis is even more stunning.
on 1 April 2013
I always thought that the version of Allegri's Miserere that I have by Kings College Cambridge was the best that I had heard until I purchased the Tallis Scholars version. Every note is a clear as a bell and the whole CD is a joy to listen to. I would recommend this CD to anyone who likes and appreciates this genre of music. A must for any collection.
on 18 July 2011
The best version ever with the amazing voice of Alyson Stamp soaring to the high notes in a beautiful acoustic.Should have at least 6 stars! I had a long wait for this to be reissued.
on 27 January 2013
This recording contains the voices of angels! Heard it once on the radio and it made the journey very memorable. By far the best version I have heard. This is the most beautiful music to listen while one studies, relaxes and drives on a long journey. One of the best remedies for stress and this will be one of my life long favourite pieces of music (and I like a lot of very varied music!) this cd comes highly recommended. I have purchased my second copy today...one copy for the car and one for the house....buy one and you will not be disappointed.