Religious music 2


Tallis ScholarsThe Tallis Scholars are a British vocal ensemble normally consisting of two singers per part, with a core group of ten singers. Formed in 1973 by their director Peter Phillips, they specialise in performing a cappella sacred vocal music written during the Renaissance by composers from all over Europe. They are recognised as one of the world-leaders in this field, paving the way for other groups such as The Sixteen and the Gabrieli Consort. They give around 70 concerts each year across the globe and career highlights have included a tour of China in 1999 and the a performance in the Sistine Chapel in 1994 to mark the restoration of the Michelangelo frescoes. The ensemble have commissioned many contemporary composers during their history and celebrated their 25th Anniversary in 1998 with a concert in London’s National Gallery that premiered a Sir John Tavener work written for the group and narrated by Sting. A further performance was given with Sir Paul McCartney in New York in 2000. The Tallis Scholars’ own label, Gimell Records, has a catalogue of around 50 releases, with a repertoire from over 150 years of musical history. Many of their finest recordings feature in this three volume series, one for each of the decades since 1980. Each four-disc set offers over five hours of the ensemble’s award-winning performances that helped establish the sacred vocal music of the Renaissance as one of the great repertoires of western classical music. VOLUME 1 (GIMBX 301) includes Allegri’s Miserere, Byrd’s Mass for five voices and Tallis’s wonderful Spem in alium, as well as music by composers such as Josquin (Missa La sol fa re mi - the first recording of early music to win Gramophone Magazine’s Record of the Year award), Sheppard (Media vita) and Palestrina (Assumpta est Maria). VOLUME 2 (GIMBX 302) includes music by Brumel (The Earthquake Mass), Tallis (Lamentations I & Lamentations II), Palestrina (Lamentations for Holy Saturday) and Cardoso’s Requiem. VOLUME 3 (GIMBX 303) has music by Verdelot (Si bona suscepimus), Gombert’s splendid Magnificat, Browne, Palestrina (Stabat mater, Missa Papae Marcelli & Tu es Petrus), the Allegri Miserere with additional embellishments by Deborah Roberts, and Josquin (Missa Malheur me bat & Missa Fortuna desperata). Volumes 2 and 3 will be released on November 1st and all the sets will also be available to Download from the Gimell website and iTunes. ‘The rock stars of Renaissance vocal music.’ - New York Times.


Czech composer Antonín Dvořák was one of the most versatile and best-loved composers of his time. When he died in 1904, he left behind a prolific legacy of compositions including nine symphonies, sixteen string quartets, a wide range of orchestral works, choral and chamber music, concerti, a Requiem and several operas. His very personal Stabat Mater is a spiritual work of such power, drama and magnitude that it ranks alongside Verdi’s Requiem. Dvořák wrote this radiant and and profound work while grieving over the deaths of three of his children. His intense anguish permeates the music, especially the explosive opening, and inspires moments of heartbreaking beauty. A setting of the mediaeval Latin prayer to the bereaved mother of the crucified Christ, it was to become both a work of mourning and of healing. The shifts of mood from near despair to hope and faith run throughout the work, before the glory and solace of the final Amen. Neeme Järvi here conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir in a live performance of this moving work recorded at the Royal festval Hall in London. The excellent soloists are Janice Watson (soprano), Dagmar Pecková (mezzo soprano), Peter Auty (tenor) and Peter Rose (bass). Look out too for Järvi’s acclaimed recording of the Dvorák Requiem released on the LPO label in 2009 (LPO-0042).


Harry Bramma was born in Bradford in 1936 and at an early age began a lifelong enthusiasm for church music. After education at Bradford Grammar School and Pembroke College, Oxford, graduating in theology and music he took his Fellowship of the Royal College of Organists in 1958 winning the Harding prize. After several church appointments he was discovered by Christopher Robinson whilst at Worcester Cathedral and joined him there as assistant in 1963. He spent 12 years in Worcester before coming Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral in 1976 and stayed for 13 years. In 1989 he succeeded Dr Lionel Dakers as Director of the RSCM. He retired to Salisbury in 1998 where he finds time for composing, always with practical liturgy in mind. His considerable contribution to church music in the UK is celebrated with this recording of his inventive, beautifully crafted and approachable music, sung by the superb professional choir of All Saints, Margaret Street (directed by Paul Brough) accompanied by organist Henry Parkes.


Franco-Flemish composer Josquin des Prez, often referred to simply as Josquin, was one of the most important musicians of the 16th century Renaissance period. His mastery of technique and gift for melodic expression were widely admired and imitated, though rarely equalled. Almost 400 works are reliably attributed to him, including both sacred and secular music, and in all of the significant vocal forms of the age - masses, motets, chansons and frottole. Despite Josquin’s colossal reputation, his biography is shadowy and little is known about his personality. This fifth CD in The Tallis Scholars’ projected nine disc Complete Josquin Mass cycle features recordings of two of the composer’s most intense canonic Masses, both based on plainchant themes, as well as the first recording of his Credo quarti toni. The Missa De beata virgine seems to have been the most performed Mass in the entire early Renaissance period ironically since it poses unusual problems for modern performers. The Missa Ave maris stella is less known but clearer and more concise ideal for chamber choirs today. The acclaimed Tallis Scholars under their founder director Peter Phillips are in fine form, giving warm and compelling performances of this beautiful, moving music.


The outstanding young Latvian composer Eriks Ešenvalds’ Passion and Resurrection is a mesmerising 30-minute work for soprano, mixed choir and small orchestra in four movements. Eschewing the single narrative perspective that characterizes the great Passion settings of the past, the composer has assembled an interlocking mosaic of texts from the gospels, from Byzantine and Roman liturgies, and from the Old Testament to tell the Holy Week story from the viewpoint of Mary Magdalene - a soaring soprano role that is dazzlingly sung here by Carolyn Sampson. Founded thirty years ago by director Harry Christophers, the Polyhony ensemble is famous for performances of early English music and great works of the Renaissance as well as a diversity of twentieth century music. Conductor Stephen Laytons commitment and deep understanding of new Baltic music are reflected in performances here of integrity, passion and radiant beauty by Polyphony and the Britten Sinfonia. The main work is a thrilling, intense expression of rapt spirituality reminiscent of Arvo Pärt, John Tavener and James Macmillan, and the CD also features five shorter, purely choral pieces on spiritual themes. The exquisite Evening was inspired by an American poem by Sara Teasdale. Night Prayer is an extended nocturne, a prayer for the goddess of the night. A drop in the Ocean commemorates the life of Mother Theresa, and Legend of the walled-in woman memorialises another Albanian woman, who was said to have been sacrificed to ward off invaders. Long Road is a beautiful setting of a love poem reflecting on loss. ‘Passion and Resurrection is surely set to become a classic.’ - On an Overgrown Path.


Somerset born composer and conductor Ronald Corp is founder and Artistic Director of the New London Orchestra and New London Children’s Choir, and Musical Director of both the London Chorus and Highgate Choral Society. Through his musical association with choruses and singers, particularly the Highgate Choral Society and the London Chorus, Corp has written a large amount of material for choirs, both accompanied and unaccompanied. His new singing translation of key sections of Dhammapada has been set for a capella choir, interspersed with field recordings of bells, chants and drums made in the exact locations in India where the Buddha lived and taught. Dhammapada is a collection of the Buddha’s sayings compiled by his followers after his death 2,500 years ago and transmitted orally for over 500 years before being written down around 2,000 years ago. It is the core work in Buddhist thought, much loved and often translated, but never previously set to Western music.


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