This CD is an excellent example of the enormous talents of this great composer whose career spanned the reigns of four monarchs during one of England's most turbulent periods, both religious and political. Apart from the fact that we know very little of Tallis' early life, his exact date of birth is also subject to speculation. He was born 'circa 1505' so this year, we are celebrating (probably) the 500th anniversary of his birth. He became organist of the Priory in Dover in 1532 and by 1538 he took a position at Waltham Abbey in Essex. After the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII, this abbey was no exception and around 1543/44, he was appointed to one of the most prestigious positions for a professional musician, that of Gentleman of the Chapel Royal, a position he held till the end of his life in 1585.
The most remarkable feature of Tallis' life is the way he steered a unique path through the lives and whims of four sovereigns, composing music acceptable to each of them and living a long and discreet existence. His large output is dominated by his choral and sacred works, some of which can be heard on this recording with 'Gaude gloriosa' taking pride of place. This piece is of monumental proportions, eloquent, uplifting and able to transport the listener into an aura of divine fervour.
Other famous works are 'O nata lux', the five-voice Latin 'Magnificat', 'Loquebantur variis lingius' and 'Suscipe quaeso Domine', where a particularly dark text wrenches from Tallis some astonishingly rhetoric effects with surprising harmonic shifts that are every bit as shocking today as they must have been at the première in 1554. The much lauded 'The Cardinall's Musick interpret these works nobly, yet gracefully, approaching each piece with a stimulating freshness that makes the listener desire more. Andrew Carwood's inspired direction brings the music's dynamic textures to the fore quite superbly. As usual, engineering and notes are of the expected superb standards from Hyperion. A historic disc to cherish and enjoy.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech