Steven Ritter
Audiophile Audition, USA
March 2015

Tallis, along with William Byrd, was one of two composers who established the quality of the pre-reformation English church; the music had gotten sloppy and undisciplined, still searching for a concrete theoretical basis to match the still undetermined and indecisive theological foundation. Tallis struggled in the early years during the transition from Catholicism to Protestantism, a metamorphosis that was neither clear nor unified. Henry VIII’s purge of the monasteries in England concluded with the shutdown of the Augustinian Abbey in Waltham, Essex—the very place where Tallis had moved to two years earlier. Now finding himself with neither job nor pension, he turned instead to singing, finding a position at Canterbury Cathedral. Later in life Tallis and William Byrd were able to secure publishing rights under a direct agreement with Queen Mary. For the former this was an eventual necessary step needed to ensure a viable living. He was able to acquire a 21-year lease in Kent from Queen Mary, followed by the aforementioned music printing and publishing license in 1572.

As a result of this compositionally nomadic existence, Tallis found himself having to straddle many different worlds and settings. His music, while always high quality and superb in craftsmanship, is also very adaptable to the circumstances needed at the time. On this disc, the fourth in Carwood’s Tallis series for Hyperion, we have a mixture of anthems, motets (in both English and Latin) capped by the very reformation-oriented Mass in Four Voices, where the long melismas are supplanted by more attention to understandable syllabic diction and part movement. It is a work rich in experimentation and fascinating to hear. Also among the other jewels is the anthem 'Why fum’th in fight', No 3 of 9 Psalm Tunes where we get to hear the famous melody that Vaughan Williams set in his Tallis Fantasy.

As in the first three issues, the quality continues—if you are collecting, no time to stop!