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The Tallis Scholars sing Thomas Tallis / Spem In Alium Double CD

4.8 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Conductor: Peter Phillips
  • Composer: Thomas Tallis
  • Audio CD (31 May 2004)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 2
  • Format: Double CD
  • Label: Gimell
  • ASIN: B00026W65E
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,757 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Spem in Alium
  2. Sancte Deus
  3. Salvator Mundi, Salva Nos 1
  4. Salvator Mundi, Salva Nos 2
  5. Gaude Gloriosa
  6. Miserere Nostri
  7. Loquebantur Variis Linguis
  8. If Ye Love Me
  9. Hear the Voice and Prayer
  10. A New Commandment
  11. O Lord, give thyholy spirit
  12. Purge Me, O Lord
  13. Verily, Verily I Say Unto You
  14. Remember Not, O Lord God
  15. Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter
  16. O Lord, in Thee Is All My Trust
  17. Christ Rising Again
  18. Blessed Are Those That Be Undefiled

Disc: 2

  1. Lamentations of Jeremiah I
  2. Lamentations of Jeremiah 2
  3. Absterge Domine
  4. O Sacrum Convivium
  5. In Manus Tuas
  6. Antiphon: Salve intemerata
  7. Magnificat for 4 voices
  8. Ave Dei patris fiia

Product Description

A specially-priced selection of previously-issued recordings. This recording of Tallis's Spem in alium was featured in "Soul Music" on BBC Radio 4. The supposed birth of Thomas Tallis in 1505 - the date is largely conjectural - gives us the last opportunity to celebrate him for many years. By 2035 - the 450th anniversary of his death in 1585 - one guesses the scene may be rather different. So I feel encouraged to feature our eponymous composer's work in the concerts we shall give during the 2004/5 season, and to release an anthology of the music we have recorded. It is perhaps worth recalling that The Tallis Scholars launched their career in London with four all-Tallis concerts in 1977/8; and made their English Anthems recording, much of which is included here, in 1985, alongside anniversary concerts in the Wigmore Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Utrecht Early Music Festival. My view of Tallis's genius has only deepened with time. Not only was he the arch-survivor but also, unlike those who trim and so build their monuments on shifting sands, he had the ability to create masterpieces in whatever style was the currency of the day. This should not be underestimated, because those styles changed out of recognition during his eighty-or-so years. First it was the traditional Catholic style of Henry VIII's reign; then it was the most severely chordal Protestant style of Edward VI's reign; then it was back to Latin and Catholic writing again under Mary, though this time in a more mature idiom than in Henry's reign - Tallis was by now turning fifty; then it was the compromise style for Elizabeth whom he served for twenty-six years and who left him sufficiently alone for him to produce some of his greatest music. It was not considered desirable on these two discs to present Tallis's music according to any chronological sequence, but the four styles outlined above can be followed clearly enough. Disc 1 starts with the exception to every rule - indeed so outstanding is Spem in alium that it still seems impossible that one mind without a computer could have managed it. To write for forty voices which do not repeat themselves in consecutive motion and not to lose control of the whole colossal edifice, is to set a challenge which even the Art of Fugue scarcely rivals. The actual compositional style of it is slightly blurred between those characteristics implied by stages three and four above - sometimes imitative between (some of) the parts, sometimes setting the text syllabically, never dealing in the unrestrained melismas of much of his purest Catholic music - and so it is not fully established whether Tallis wrote it for Mary or Elizabeth (both of whom celebrated their fortieth birthdays whilst on the throne) or for some more abstract reason, perhaps to do with the Biblical number 40. But for us in our modern terms, as for Tallis himself, Spem remains the ultimate technical challenge - supremely difficult to bring off, supremely rewarding when one comes near. Sancte Deus is a classic example of Tallis's first style, illustrating what I mean above by unrestrained melismas'. A melisma is a melodic line which only uses one syllable, like the A' of Amen, allowing the composer's imagination to fly free of text-setting. This essentially abstract way of thinking was admired by the pre-Reformation Catholics, and needless to say was particularly objected to by the Protestants. The Salvator mundi settings (the second much less famous than the first) were Elizabethan and so more compact; but Gaude gloriosa is one of the most elaborate Catholic compositions of the entire period. Unlike Spem it is colossal in length rather than height, using the nine exclamations of Gaude' in the text to work up a construction which is essentially architectural.

Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

By Sid Nuncius #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on 18 April 2008
Format: Audio CD
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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Let's put Thomas Tallis in context. He was born a few years before Henry 8th (him of the six wives) became King. He died half way through the reign of Elizabeth 1st (her of the Spanish Armada). On this disc is the music of almost FIVE HUNDRED years ago - contemporary with "Greensleeves". This is as long BEFORE Mozart as we are AFTER.

You might be forgiven for thinking that the music of this era would be simple, unsophisticated stuff - in other words, rather like "Greensleeves" - but you are WRONG.

What you will find on this disc are choral works of astonishing complexity and masterful vision. Thomas Tallis was, without doubt, one of the towering figures of musical history. OK - the style is definitely "of its era", but what can you expect? You cannot listen to the music of almost 500 years ago and expect it to sound modern. It doesn't.

What it DOES sound, however, is breath-taking with contrapuntal harmony that bewilders the ear and mind. The piece I personally believe to be Tallis's masterwork, his motet in 40 parts "Spem in Alium", is the first track on the first disc. It weaves astonishing tonalities that have never been surpassed since.

If you buy this disc for nothing else, buy it for Spem in Alium.
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I heard this on a Tallis evening on one of my default surveys onto Radio 3 which was having a celebration of his works. I am more into rock actually, although I have loved Vaughan Williams's 'Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis' ever since I first heard it 40 years ago and early French counterpoint I do not even know the names of. But this music is astonishing, it deserves the word 'sublime' if anything does. When I first heard it, accompanying James Fox's television series on the English Renaissance, gooseflesh stroked my forearms, it is so piercingly beautiful; and to think that Tallis came out of nowhere (I think) to begin the English musical Renaissance, this is almost miraculous and certainly remarkable. My favourite choral piece was Allegri's famous 'Miserere' and whilst it is fatuous to say which is better than what, this is as gorgeous and transporting and seems, to my ignorant sensibility, to be an even more intricate and technically complex piece. For FORTY voices, all of which sing different parts, none in unison! A thing of beauty is a joy forever indeed. As usual Keats was right and it is an exquisite one to boot.
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Format: Audio CD
The standout on any compilaton of Tallis choral music is "Spem In Alium", and listening to this performance some 26 years after it was recorded is instructive. On my Hi-Fi there are moments when this is almost painful to listen to, such are the effects of the distinctive acoustic of Merton College Chapel and/or the recording technique. When the soprano voices come in, there seems to be a resonance which over-emphasises their range and creates a ringing overtone. At first I thought that this was something to do with my Hi-Fi, and to be fair, not everyone notices it (my Wife thinks the recording is perfect). But I recently bought both the Magnificat recording and that by The Sixteen in order to compare, and they don't have the same problem.

Now this is a notoriously difficult piece to record, and the problem of conveying the feeling of a performance in a particular place was undoubtedly more dificult a quarter century ago. But it could be done; witness the sound on the second disc of this issue, recorded in Salle Parish Church in Norfolk. There are no unwanted resonances, the acoustic is spacious and open, the sound cooler and more analytical. So I conclude that Merton College Chapel plays too large a part in the sound of the first disc, while Salle Church is a model of discretion. Alternatively the recording engineer may have kept his mikes just too far from the singers; some older recordings made with a simple crossed pair had problems like this.

This is still a wonderful compilation, but time has passed and it's no longer the automatic choice if you want a Spem In Alium (and it is a miraculous piece of writing for voice - perhaps the most accomplished choral piece ever).
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