I'm quite sure there must be many people like me,who early on in their record collecting career,heard a brief excerpt of Allegri's "Miserere" over the radio perhaps,or on a film soundtrack,and exclaimed: "What is that !" and "why don't I own something that beautiful ?"; "Take me to it at once !!".In my case I rushed out to my local record shop (after carefully consulting my "bible" i.e "The Penguin Guide to Classical CDs") and was fortunate enough to find this lovely Tallis Scholars recording just waiting there for me.Now,there are some excellent "Misereres" available elsewhere,with brilliant boy soloists soaring magically up to those spine-tingling high Cs,but this recording is something apart and special.For a start,it is a girl (the excellent Alison Stamp) who has the solo limelight,and also Peter Philips,the director,had the brilliant notion of seperating the solo group of the choir,and placing them at the far end of Merton College Chapel.Not only does this fully exploit the fantastic acoustics of the building,but it creates the marvellous effect of making the piece come across almost as a dialogue between Heaven and Earth.It's a truly otherworldly listening experience,and should not be missed by anyone who claims to love music.
William Mundy's "Vox Patris Caelestis" (The Voice of the heavenly Father) is a celebration of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,and borrows heavily from the Song of Solomon.Perhaps at first you might think it doesn't quite have the appeal of the other two items on this disc,but it does repay repeated listening,and with the barely reined in passion of it's final verse provides a most satisfying sonic bridge between the more subdued beauties of the other masterworks.
The well considered interval of silence after the impressive "Amen" of "Vox Patris..." only serves to heighten the eager anticipation you should rightly feel before the commencement of Palestrina's outstandingly beautiful "Missa Papae Marcelli".I won't burden you now with an Academic dissertation (I'm ill-qualified to do so anyway) on it's genesis and provenance.Instead I'll just baldly (and boldly) state that if you are entirely new to polyphonic settings of the Mass,then this is the loveliest launchpad possible for you to soar Heavenwards on a fantastic voyage of discovery.From it's oh,so sublime "Kyrie",to the absolute raptures of it's "Sanctus" and two part "Agnus Dei",it reminds me of nothing so much as a glorious musical galleon sailing across a barely ruffled ocean towards a blissful horizon of peace via the concluding "dona nobis pacem".Quite,quite astonishing that such paradisiacal sounds can be produced by such a small group of men and women -- and not an instument (apart from their vocal cords) to be seen !
So,waste not a second more of your life,if you have any regard at all for your harmonic health,in snapping up this wonderful CD.Your personal countdown has started;so step aboard,join me,and we'll ply the seraphic seas of polyphony together.