Among the dozens of memorable Tallis Scholars recordings over the past 30 years, this one stands as one of the most purely beautiful—vocally, sonically, and interpretively. Victoria's music always has suited the ensemble well, but this lineup of voices—gone are mainstays Francis Steele, Charles Daniels, Tessa Bonner, Deborah Roberts, Sally Dunkley, et al. (only Caroline Trevor and Donald Greig remain from the 1990s)—is extraordinarily compatible, making all the right things happen musically, from the clearly defined lines and unified phrasing and expressive nuances, to the achievement of an ensemble sound that, more than in any past Tallis Scholars configuration, effectively brings the soprano voices into the fold. Further, there's a tension in the lines, a manner of vocal articulation and of "feeding" the harmonies, that's perfectly expressive of the texts, and the result is a marvel of tone and temperament and choral singing at its most artful and stylistically informed.
These Lamentations are not only serious liturgical entities, but they are gorgeous choral works in their own right, and Peter Phillips has been doing this kind of repertoire longer than almost anyone around these days—he knows how to do 'gorgeous' and 'liturgically correct' both at the same time, and we have him and his superb singers to thank for much of today's serious focus on early and Renaissance choral music that began in the 1980s. Other excellent choirs have recorded these pieces-notably The Sixteen (Coro) and the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge (the latter includes the Responsories of the Second Nocturn, recorded on the now-defunct Conifer label)—but the sheer beauty of the singing and yes, the sensual, secular allure of these performances guarantees the modern listener an experience that can be enjoyed on several levels, from the devoutly spiritual to the more overtly, subversively 'Victorian'. This is first-class, in every sense.