BBC Prom 73: Tallis Scholars

Before the Ending of the Day
Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Royal Albert Hall, 6 September 2018

The late-night concert on 6 September, following the Britten War Requiem, was a quasi-liturgical performance of the service of Compline, the concluding service of the daily eight canonical hours in Catholic liturgy. After the concluding litany of the War Requiem: “Let us sleep now” it was an appropriate add-on. Traditionally followed in monastic settings by the ‘Great Silence’ that lasted until the first service of the morning, its roots go back to St Benedict at the beginning of the sixth century. The name of the service comes from the word ‘complete’ reflecting the completion of the working day – or, in this case, for most of us, the end of a musical day.  Continue reading

Josquin Masses: Di dadi – Une mousse de Biscaye

Josquin Masses: Di dadi – Une mousse de Biscaye
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Gimell CDGIM 048. 71’13

The Tallis Scholars add to their list of ten CDs of Josquin Masses with this recording of two fascinating, if slightly curious examples. Neither of them are definitively acknowledged to be by Josquin. But if they are, as Peter Phillips argues in his programme note, they are likely to be early works, the Missa Di dadi perhaps being a precursor of the later Missa Pange lingua. And they are both fascinating pieces, not just for the music but for the background to their composition. As their titles suggest they involve gambling, the throw of the dice, and the seduction of a young lady from Biscay.

The Missa Di dadi (the ‘Mass of the Dice’) only survives in one source, Petrucci’s Missarum Josquin liber tertius of 1514. It uses as its cantus firmus the tenor line from Robert Morton’s rondeau N’aray je jamais mieulx. Each Continue reading

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea
The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips
Gimell Records CDGIM046. 62’07

John Taverner:  Missa Corona spinea, Dum transisset Sabbatum I and II

It is very tempting, and indeed, very enjoyable, to let Renaissance vocal music just waft over you as a seemingly amorphous wave of music, ebbing and flowing like the tide. You can do this with this CD of Taverner’s extraordinary Missa Corona spinea, but from the very start you will realise that this is something very different. Just three notes in (after a rather curious 12 second pause at the start of the first track), the Treble line (sung by a pair of sopranos) soars up to a high B flat. From then on, this Treble line has very little chance to relax, and always seems to be attracted to this high note. This expansive vocal range is a feature of all the movements, and it grabs the attention. For example, in the Credo the Et expecto section starts with two bass lines before the treble enters two and a half octaves above them – the final cadence has a four octave span from top to bottom. The use of a double bass line is also unusual. And if you ever wondered what a Gimell was, there are two examples here, where the Trebles divide into two parts (track 7), later doing the same together another divided part (track 10) to form a double Gimell. This Mass was clearly intended for a special occasion and includes some remarkable features. Continue reading

Tallis Scholars: 2000th concert

Tallis Scholars: 2000th concert
St John’s Smith Square, 21 September 2015

Taverner: Leroy Kyrie; Sheppard: Missa Cantate; Gabriel Jackson: Ave Dei Patris filia; Byrd: Infelix Ego. Ye Sacred Muses, Tribue Domine.

The Tallis Scholars were founded in 1973 in Oxford and gave their first London concert in St John’s, Smith Square three years later. They returned there for their 2000th concert with an adventurous programme centred on the extraordinary, but rarely performed Missa Cantate by the enigmatic John Sheppard. This is a curious work, although the title ‘Sing’ is pretty clear, as is its festal nature. It probably dates from the mid-1550s during Queen Mary’s reign. As was usual in England in masses of this kind, the Kyrie was not set (something that escaped the attention of the programme compiler who listed a Kyrie in the text translations). To make up for that, John Taverner’s ‘Leroy’ Kyrie opened the concert, its slowly three lower unfolding melismatic lines supporting a treble cantus that might have been composed by Henry IV or V – hence the Le Roy name. This revealed what became one of the highlights of the evening: the outstanding singing by the four sopranos whose clear, unaffected and focussed voices were a constant delight.the tallis scholars early music vocal ensemble peter phillips Continue reading