Thomas Tallis: The Complete Works – Volume 2


This disc is the second in a series of nine covering the complete works of Thomas Tallis (c.1505-1585).

As the 1540s developed, the Reformation began to take hold and the style of music required from composers such as Tallis altered radically. The large-scale melismatic votive antiphons (for example those on disc 1) were no longer required; the emphasis moved away from Marian devotion to a more syllabic and compact style and, eventually, to settings of English rather than Latin texts. Disc two traces this development from the Jesus antiphon Sancte Deus, to the mass for four voices, the three early English anthems including If ye love me, the Te Deum for meanes and the Elizabethan Magnificat and Nunc dimittis.


What people are saying

“a stimulating second volume in this distinguished series”
Penguin Guide to Compact Discs
“a beautiful homogeneous quality and are pure and uncomplicated"
Footloose Magazine

Chapelle du Roi,

Alistair Dixon

Release date:25th Sep 1997
Order code:SIGCD002
Barcode: 635212000229

Penguin Guide to Compact Discs

Most, and possibly all, the musi8c here dates from the 1540s and reflects the remarkable diversity of musical response that came directly from the profound change in reformed religious procedures which developed in England within a single decade. Tallis himself joined the new, non-monastic cathedral choir at Canterbury in 1540, and went on to become a lay Gentleman of the Chapel Royal (almost certainly working immediately as a composer) in 1543/4. Much liturgical music was still sung in Latin, notably the splendid ‘Magnificat’ and the deeply felt ‘Sancte Deus’, but already there are settings in English, including three fine early anthems, an extended English ‘Benedictus’ and a remarkable five-part ‘Te Deum’, all very different from the music on Volume I of this series. The surprisingly homophonic setting of the Latin ‘Mass’ is forward-looking too, and very telling. The ‘Angus Dei’ is most beautiful. ‘If ye love me’ resourcefully alternates chordal and imitative section. The sheer variety of the music here is remarkable and makes a stimulating second volume in this distinguished series.

Ivan March

Gramophone Dec 1998

Two exciting ?Complete Works? projects have taken off in the past year, both of which show increasing signs of doing much more than merely filling gaps in the catalogue. Chapelle du Roi under Alistair Dixon have embarked upon a nine-volume project devoted to Tallis, organized in roughly chronological order of composition. Their second volume offers music dating from the first years of the Reformation, including a Latin ?Magnificat and Nunc dimittis?, and the Mass for four voices. To my ear this volume represents an appreciable advance over the first for the ensemble: vocal quality is more consistent, entries are far more confident, lines more assertively shaped. And you may well find that it is not just the musicians who are on better form here: Tallis himself seems far happier in the syllabic, concisely imitative idiom of these pieces than in the note-spinning, earlier post-Eton Choirbook style of the votive antiphons. This volume also includes a number of the composer?s anthems (including the most famous, ?If ye love me?) which receive equally fine performances. I remember The Hilliard Ensemble?s rugged rendition of the Mass for four voices (ECM. 4/88) with great affection, but this version for mixed choir is equally satisfying.

Footloose Magazine 1998

Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585) is regarded as one of the finest English composers of the 16th-century, along with his pupil Wiliam Byrd (1542 – 1623). Signum Records has released volume 2 of the complete works of Tallis, which includes his ‘Mass for Four Voices’ ‘Te Deum for Means’, ‘If Ye Love Me’ and ‘Magnificat & Dunc Dimittus’, sung by Chapelle Du Roi ands conducted by Alistair Dixon. The voices in this CD have a beautiful homogeneous quality and are pure and uncomplicated, thankfully omitting the use of vibrato. It is finely recorded, and contains detailed and informative programme notes including the placing of music in its historical context. Highly recommended.

Kathryn Thomas, December 2002

Volume 2 of the Tallis complete works follows the successful format of its predecessor. Here the selection features better known music and there is greater competition on disc. The anthems in particular are available on disc from the Tallis Scholars (Gimell CDGIM007) at full price. This is relevant in that if one takes the trouble to use the card in this disc to request a mailing from Signum Records, one can purchase all this series direct from them at £7.99 per disc – a considerable saving, particularly for performances such as these.

The high standard of singing and interpretation is continued throughout these pieces, and together with the most informative booklet this is a document to be treasured. The omission on the last disc of voice parts has been rectified and again translations of all pieces are provided in Latin, English, French and German. The anthems are possibly the most well known, and are performed by men’s voices, with an alto taking the upper part. These are all smoothly and tastefully sung, with the false relations obvious without being overly pointed. In the other pieces, boyish female voices are employed to effect.

The dates of many of the items are uncertain, particularly given the upheaval and changing patterns of religion. From 1530-1570 dominance moved from early protestantism to a return to Catholicism under Mary, and then again to the protestant faith under Elizabeth. It is thus intriguing to sample Latin texts and a Mass, interspersed with English anthems (the latter probably dating around 1570). The Latin mass and antiphons are probably much earlier – around 1540. The mass is preceded by a plainchant Kyrie which in the Latin rite was sung on major feast days.

I have not heard all the Tallis Scholars disc, but comparing those pieces which I am able, the Chapelle du Roi acquit themselves in excellent fashion; if one takes advantage of the price reduction obtainable from Signum Records, this becomes a real bargain.

John Portwood

Click here to read a comparison with the Winchester Cathedral’s recording of similar repertoire

Goldberg, August 2005

Alistair Dixon’s authorship of the major part of this discography modestly precluded consideration of his own monumental contribution, the complete works of Tallis recorded on his Signum label. Recorded between 1996 and 2004, the series was almost entirely undertaken by Chapelle du Roi, the vocal ensemble founded by Dixon in 1994. The triumph of the serlies lies not only in thoroughly idiomatic and beautifully executed performances, but also in the fact it represented a formidable feat of scholarship, editions of many of the unpublished works being prepared by Dixon himself. Add to this the scholarly notes by leading scholars and full translations into French and German and you have a series likely to remain an unchallenged benchmark.

Each disc is given a theme and the series was recorded in roughly chronological order, allowing the listener to chart Tallis’ progress as a composer throgh the turbulent times of the Reformation and the varying demands made on him throughout four reigns. The result was an astonishing variety of music ranging from the luxuriant polyphony of the early years of the reign of Henry VIII through to the direct, austere style demanded by the newly established Anglican church. For those who truly wish to understand Tallis the complete boxed set (SIGCD060; available at a special price) is an obligatory acquisition, but anyone wanting to take a gently first step might try volume 2, which includes the translucently lovely Mass for four voice among a group of works for the pre-Anglican reformed church.

Brian Robins

Fanfare, July, Auust 1998
Review of Tallis Vols 1, 2 and 3 (SIGCD001, SIGCD002 and SIGCD003)

The launch of a complete recorded Tallis on top of one if not more complete recorded Byrds is a major advance over the admirable previous efforts to document such composers as Fayrfax and Ludford, whose total surviving output would fit on a few CDs. These two composers, rather, are major undertakings. A few years ago (Fanfare 14:2) we saw considerable attention to Thomas Tallis (ca.1510-85), a composer who uniquely survived from Catholic times to the Elizabethan era.

Each of the first three discs has something new to offer, while each disc includes one of the composer’s three Masses. On the first disc the new items are two Proper sections from the Mass of Our Lady (preserved in the Gyffard partbooks), but the rest of the disc contains the entire contents of Metronome MET CD 1014 (Fanfare 20:3), which itself included the first recording of two early votive antiphons. The new disc shaves eight minutes off the total time of the earlier disc, so the two new pieces and a chant Kyrie (to fill out the Mass) bring the disc back up to the same timing. The Missa Salve intemerata that forms the centerpiece of this disc enjoys its fourth recording.

The second disc centers around the Mass for Four Voices, a work that receives its sixth recording here. It is preceded by three Latin works and a chant Kyrie. The disc then concludes with six English settings, the justification for the subtitle, “Music at the Reformation.” Four of these pieces are included in Peter Phillip’s “Complete English Anthems” of Tallis (10:3), which seemed to include almost everything that belonged in this category while omitting the English-texted Benedictus and Te Deum composed for the new Mattins service, the novelties on this disc.

The third disc has a Mass for Christmas Day that was recorded only on Calliope CAL9623 (CD in 12:1). It is followed (as it was on the other disc) by the similarly scored Suscipe quaeso. The disc concludes with the great votive antiphon Gaude gloriosa, a work very well served in CD in recent years. The novelty on this disc is Beati immaculati, a psalm that survives with the English text Blessed are those but clearly appears to be a conrtrafactum, an adaptation of English words to a Latin original. Evidence includes the vocal scoring and the awkward text-setting, while the Latin text is easily fitted to the melody. The Mass is interwoven with a chant Kyrie and all the Gregorian Propers for the Mass of Christmas Day, the unquestionable choice to complete a Mass Ordinary based on the cantus firmus of the introit heard here. In addition to the usual Propers, a sequence Celeste organum is given its first recording. This is the first Tallis Mass to be recorded this way, as so many other Renaissance Masses have been done, The fragmentary Credo (only the end remains) is omitted, forcing us to go back to David Wulstan’s earlier recording if we wish to hear this minute and a half of music.

Hence, while we have a mix of first recordings and more familiar pieces, the only piece on the three discs that has been offered on multiple CDs until now is Gaude gloriosa. That fact alone gives the set enormous value. Five other recordings of this magnificent votive antiphon range from 16 to 18 minutes, so this 17-minute version is moderately paced. The performances by this adult mixed choir of 10 to 17 voices (no familiar names from any other English choral ensemble) maintain a consistently high level of quality, both in interpretation and in vocal skill. Alastair Dixon founded the group in 1994, the year he joined the Chapel Royal (doubtless the source of the ensemble’s name), but they have accumulated considerable experience in frequent concert appearances (the contents of the third disc were sung at St. John’a Smith Square, last November when it was released). Most of the music on these three discs has already been edited by Dixon and published by his Cantiones Press. Six more discs are planned by this new label, another of Dixon’s enterprises.

If you have the Metronome CD already, you need not fret about duplicating it with the first entry here, for the boys and men of Canterbury, their slightly broader tempos, and the acoustics of the place make it a splendid choice. New purchasers will be very pleased with all three of these discs. Nick Sandon writes all the notes, taking a very personal and sometimes highly charged view of Tallis’s career and his times. This is more than worthwhile: it is a splendid achievement.

J. F. Weber

  1. Magnificat – – [10:06]
  2. Nunc Dimittis – – [3:12]
  3. Sancte Deus – – [5:58]
  4. Conditor: Kyrie – – [2:24]
  5. Mass for four voices – Gloria – – [5:17]
  6. Mass for four voices – Credo – – [6:40]
  7. Mass for four voices – Sanctus – – [3:00]
  8. Mass for four voices – Benedictus – – [2:54]
  9. Mass for four voices – Agnus Dei – – [4:14]
  10. Remember not, O Lord God – – [3:11]
  11. Hear the voice and prayer – – [3:15]
  12. If ye love me – – [2:13]
  13. A new commandment – – [2:50]
  14. Benedictus – – [6:25]
  15. Te deum for meanes – – [8:55]