Tallis Lamentations

Tallis Lamentations
The Cardinall’s Musick, Andrew Carwood
Hyperion CDA68121. 75’09

Lamentations of Jeremiah I/II; In pace, in idipsum; Lord have mercy upon us: Short Service ‘Dorian’ (Responses, Credo, Sanctus, Gloria); Not every one that saith unto me; Solemnis urgebat dies; Sancte Deus; Dum transisset Sabbatum; Why brag’st in malice high; Salvator mundi I; Te deum ‘for meanes’; Come, Holy Ghost.

Tallis Thomas Lamentations Andrew Carwood HyperionThis is the penultimate recording in The Cardinal’s Musick’s Tallis Edition, and it opens with a masterpiece, the two settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. As Andrew Carwood explains in his programme notes, it seems that they were written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, rather than the earlier Catholic Queen Mary. It is not clear why these, and other similar Lamentations, were composed or when they would have been performed, if not in the Holy Week Tenebrae service in the Catholic rite – hence the usual assumption of composition during Queen Mary’s reign. They are remarkable pieces, using the simple textural style of one note per syllable encouraged by Archbishop Cranmer. The Hebrew incipits are particularly well set, as are the concluding, and rather sombre settings of Jerusalem, Jerusalem – perhaps a clue as to what was in Tallis’s mind.

The following Compline respond In pace, in idipsum demonstrates the individuality of many of the Cardinall’s singers, but perhaps not always to the best effect in the upper few voices. I am not sure what the recording layout was, but some of the voices seem to be more remote than others – perhaps just an aural trick suggesting a less than perfect balance. The central part of the CD is devoted to the ‘Dorian’ Short Service, sung in English and representing the musical style of Edward VI’s time Restrained and simple, they are in sharp contrast to the elaborate settings of the earlier Catholic rite. A rather dominant and distinctive countertenor voice remains a bit of an issue during this sequence, although otherwise the blend between the singers is excellent.

The rest of the music switches between English Protestant and Latin Catholic, in a seemingly random manner – as indeed was the case during Tallis’s life. After Edward’s English Short Service, we jump forward  to Mary’s restored Catholic rite and the sumptuous Pentecost alternatim setting of Solemnis urgebat dies, with alternate verses chanted and sung polyphonically. The two cantors sound particularly fine in the chant sections, and the blend with the, now female, upper vocal line and the rest of the consort is much more sympathetic. We then jump back a couple of reigns to the Sancte Deus, written during the time of Henry VIII, possibly during the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.

We then leap forward to the time of Elizabeth for the first of two settings from Archbishop Parker’s metrical, and English, versions of the Psalms, pausing in Mary’s reign for another substantial Eastertide Compline respond. The large-scale Te Deum for the meanes is difficult to date, and possible spans several reigns, although its use of English perhaps indicates an early Elizabethian composition. It is set in the manner still heard in Cathedrals to this day, with the choir divided left and right (Decani and Cantoris), although that separation is not really apparent on the recording.

Selecting from 15 singers, The Cardinall’s Musick make a glorious sound, forthright and strong. They are aided by the acoustic of the (Catholic) Fitzalan Chapel in Arundal Castle. A particularly appropriate venue, as it is the principal seat of the Dukes of Norfolk who, as well as being the premier Dukes and Earls of England and hereditary Earls Marshal are also one of Britain’s leading Catholic families. Several of them lost the Dukedom, and sometimes their heads, in the turbulent times of their close relatives, the late Tudors.

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