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John Taverner's undisputed masterpiece has long been a class act in the repertoire of the Tallis Scholars and Peter Phillips. This is their second recording of the work on their own Gimell label, and this time it is coupled with a fascinating trio of Magnificat settings.

Taking the Mass first, this Tudor-age cantus firmus setting is a unique and remarkable work, quite distinct from any other setting either from England or from the contemporary Franco-Flemish tradition. Taverner's adventurous writing for 6 voices produces an enthralling expression of the Mass text, as well as a complex texture beautifully enhanced by the thrilling, soaring lines of the treble part. Here, with each of the 6 parts - treble, mean, alto 1, alto 2, tenor and bass - sung mainly by two voices, the extraordinarily demanding treble line is taken by sopranos Janet Coxwell and Amy Haworth. These two ladies do a simply fabulous job, their voices as clear, pure and perfectly pitched as you could wish for, and the effect, especially in the treble/lower-voice duo sections and in the increasingly florid passages towards the close of movements, is spectacular.

In his excellent review my colleague E. L. Wisty has commented on the fact that, for this recording, the work has been transposed upwards, resulting of course in a higher tessitura throughout. It is true that this has a significant effect on what we hear but, contrary to his view, I do not find it a drawback. Unlike a couple of recent recordings by the Marian Consort (e.g. Maillard: Missa Je suis déshéritée & Motets), the vocal balance of the Tallis Scholars sounds just right to me, with the lower voices exerting their full weight in both performance and recorded sound and not in any way swamped or overwhelmed by the high voices. The listener's attention is certainly drawn to the lines of the latter by the nature of the composer's writing, and it seems to me that this was what Taverner intended. That effect is emphasised still further by the decision to transpose, but I would guess - and please correct me, somebody, if I'm wrong - that the Tallis Scholars have performed the work this way because they can. Peter Phillips and his colleagues wanted the work to sound spectacular, they have the voices and the skills to make it so, and it does; thus, for me, Taverner's radiant masterpiece is here heard at its very best.

The couplings on this new disc consist of Taverner's three alternatim Magnificat settings for 4, 5 and 6 voices respectively. These have received little if any attention in recordings until now, mainly because the surviving parts for the latter two works were incomplete. But editor Timothy Symons has done superb work in reconstructing the missing parts, resulting in a splendid trio of restored masterpieces. The 4-voice setting, without treble part, brings an appropriate change of texture after the stratospheric Mass ending, and soaring vocal fireworks are similarly absent from the beautiful, mainly lower-voice 5-part setting. For the six-voice work the florid, exuberant treble lines return in their full glory, and the superb "Gloria Patri" conclusion brings the music and its listeners full circle.

This is another superlative disc from the Tallis Scholars, at the peak of their form as they sing this marvellous music; I've singled out the sopranos, but it will come as no surprise to the choir's many admirers that all the singers do a fabulous job. Recorded sound in Oxford's Merton College Chapel is splendid, and Peter Phillips, not content with his impeccable and deeply considered direction of the ensemble, also writes concise, excellent booklet notes. The Tallis Scholars' two sopranos, 'primi inter pares' for the purposes of this recording, deservedly get their own photo on the back page of the CD booklet - together with a glimpse of a fine-looking classic sports car which, I'm ashamed to say, I can't identify. Any offers?
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on 12 November 2013
Released to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of The Tallis Scholars on 3 November 2013 this album has gone straight to number 1 in the UK Specialist Classical Chart and is the highest non-crossover album in the Classical Artists Chart.

Reviewing the album on BBC Radio 3 CD Review Andrew McGregor said "it's a thrilling sound ... you can see why Peter Phillips choose the Taverner, it's a great display piece for the ensemble ... in this Taverner Mass and the 3 Magnificat settings The Tallis Scholars are unsurpassed".

Paul Driver in The Sunday Times described the "impeccable purity of sound, with ecstatic results" and Robert Levett in International Review Review said "it's quite simply stunning".
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on 5 August 2014
Having acquired the excellent series of Taverners' works by the Sixteen I hesitated before buying this version by the Tallis Scholars. I do not regret my purchase.
This is an exceptional performance especially by the two trebles of an early Tudor masterpiece. Long flowing melodies building to a glorious crescendo in the Gloria and Credo followed by the lovely Sanctus / Benedictus and finishing with the sublime Agnus Dei. The CD also contains the three Magnificats exceptional works themselves reflecting different styles. The five voice is said to be the earliest of the three, "late medieval" in style and scored for the lower voices. The six voice bears more resemblence to the composition found in the mass.
Through the beautiful and complex music of Taverner the Tallis scholars are able to demonstrate their exceptional talent. The acoustics of Merton College are outstanding and this adds even more to the enjoyment.
I would also recommend series by the Sixteen of Taverners works. Five star music at a budget price.
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...at 40, let us hope that there is a long life left in the Tallis Scholars. On entering their fifth decade, director Peter Phillips has chosen to re-record John Taverner's Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas, first recorded by the Tallises in 1986, though I have not heard that disc. Phillips' rationale for selecting this work once again is his view that it is "one of the greatest pieces of music ever to have been written in England", demonstrating Taverner's "[faultless] grasp of all the techniques available to him".

Scored as SSAATB, this is a tighter arrangement than first time round in line with recent practice by the Scholars with 2 voices per part, and it's a demanding work for the vocalists, in particular for the Treble (i.e. Soprano 1) & both Alto parts whose singers must possess an exceptionally broad range. Most obviously for the listener to this disc are the soaring high notes perfectly delivered by the pairing of Janet Coxwell and Amy Haworth in the Treble line. The scores (downloadable from the Gimell site) indicate that the Mass, and also the three Magnificats also here, are transposed up by a minor third.

If I refrain from awarding five stars this should in no way be taken as a comment upon either Taverner's compositional talent or on the skill and performance of the Tallis Scholars themselves, rather it reflects my own personal view in that I do not enjoy music quite so heavily dominated by the sopranos, especially when transposed upwards to suit them (and one suspects a weightier presence in the recording mix too), quite so much as I do that with a more balanced arrangement, such as the Tallises' previous release Mouton: Dictes Moy Toutes Pensees. Two of the three Magnificats fare better in this regard, being AATB, SATTB, and the third having the same arrangement as the mass, SSAATB, with the two Alto parts beefed up with three voices each. It should also be noted that the 5 & 6 part Magnificats involve partial reconstructions as the scores do no survive in their entirety, lacking a tenor and treble part respectively.

With this recording Phillips states his intention to "show-case what The Tallis Scholars have achieved in their 40 years of dedication to polyphony: a summation of Taverner's art as well as our own". My own aforementioned preferences put firmly to one side, I think Phillips has truly succeeded. 4.5 stars.
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on 28 March 2014
This won the Gramophone record of the year award for good reason. A magnificent recording, with sopranos versus boy trebles which were used in the Tallis Scholars' first recording of this work. Spectacular performance. Desert island recording. Also see, first recording with boy trebles: Taverner - Missa Gloria Tibi Trinitas
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on 12 October 2015
Very disappointed! Although Taverner's music is divine and the male singers equally so the recording was spoilt in my view by the dominance of very high pitched and at times shrill soprano voices that I struggled to listen to. I am really at a loss to understand why the soprano is allowed to totally destroy so much wonderful music in this genre today as their struggle to reach the high notes always sounds to me to be seriously at odds with the wonderful harmonies of the male voice. Perhaps I am a little biaised as I am a great lover of the countertenor voice and much prefer recordings by all male ensembles. The one exception being music by Vox Luminis, an ensemble that has male and female voices that complement each other wonderfully.
Unfortunately this CD is likely to find its way to the back of my collection where it will gather dust and remain unplayed.
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on 9 April 2014
This is the Tallis Scholars at their inimitable best. This music soars. It is beautiful. In fact it is near perfection.
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on 2 March 2015
An excellent recording, by an excellent choir this Taverner work provides a great background sound for relaxing or work (on my Sony mp3 player). I would say that this is an essential addition to any cd collection including choral works, along with Tallis' Spem in allium. Good value and definitely worth the money.
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on 12 March 2014
The music and singing are beautiful. I had heard some songs on the radio and loved the way they made me feel. Enjoyable.
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on 18 March 2014
Frequent visitor to their wonderful concerts. Consoling, ethereal music making at its very very best. My best friend Bobbie and I are keen concert goers and love this sort of music having been convent educated and brainwashed into liking it ....
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