ALLEGRI. Miserere. Tallis Scholars
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Here's a wonderful introduction to Renaissance choral music, with two tried-and-true repertory standards and the Mundy, a gorgeously sensuous example of a lesser-known mid-16th-century work, whose complex polyphonic strands are rendered with compelling involvement by the Tallis Scholars. These performances were among the group's earliest recordings and helped catapult them into the forefront of specialists in this demanding repertoire. The Allegri became a favorite back in the 1970s, a sort of choral equivalent of Albinoni's Adagio, in which repetition serves as the driving force. The Tallis Scholars give it welcome variety through spatial placement in a large church and their colorful singing. Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli is one of that great composer's finest works. Its mastery of polyphony while clarifying the text is said to have convinced the Church to withhold its impending ban on polyphonic church music. The group sounds larger than its 21 members because of the acoustics, the clear diction of the Scholars, and the power of their singing, always transparent and involved. They use female sopranos instead of boys' voices, so there's more heft and color than we often hear from early-music groups. Vivid engineering makes the CD even more attractive. --Dan Davis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Part of the power of the Miserere lies in its basic simplicity, which is one of the fundamental building blocks of spirituality. Indeed, legend has it that the Pope once decreed that it could only be performed at the Vatican, and only under conditions of special care due to its spiritual power. Legend continues that this monopoly was broken when Mozart (as a child) heard the piece and, from one hearing only, transcribed the music into print form and distributed it from there. Perhaps this is an embellishment, but it is a romantic story befitting the piece. The Miserere is based on Psalm 51 (Allegri's setting is but one of many), the great penitential psalm of the Lenten season. This sombre and searching spirituality permeates the music from start to finish. The high piercing notes recalling the piercing guilt and the pierced Christ cry over the mixture of voices that produce a most exquisite grumble of humanity in search of God.
--Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli-
Written at least a generation prior to Allegri's Miserere, Palestrina's Mass for Pope Marcellus II is likewise a composition in search of the absolute and absolving God. Reacting to an overly ornate liturgy of the Roman Catholic church in the face of popular and growing Reformation types, Palestrina became a great champion for music that preserved both the grandeur of the liturgy as well as the accessibility of the message and language for the people. The lower vocals make the Mass a part of the people, rather than existing on high, inaccessible.
--William Mundy's Vox Patris caelestis-
Mundy's work is roughly contemporary with that of Palestrina (mid to late 1500s).Read more ›
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.Read more ›
But no matter; the rest of the CD is more than worth its price. The tempi in the Palestrina Mass are often on the slow side, which took me a while to get used to--moments like "et resurexit" didn't come accross as exultantly as one might expect--but after several listenings I came to realize that as an overall approach it works perfectly, and every strand of polyphony is clearly audible. The total effect is one of radiant spiritual calm and beauty. Listening to Palestrina requires putting aside the expectations acquired from four centuries of later music and becoming receptive to the extraordinarily subtle, masterly way he responds to the text. It is truly a masterpiece of the sixteenth century, and here beautifully performed.
For me, though, the high point of the recording was the almost totally unknown Vox Patris Caelestis.Read more ›
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