I might have to come back and revise this review after a few more listens, but right now, I'm somewhat disappointed in this recording of Spem in alium. Up front-- I think that the Tallis Scholars' interpretation is one of the greatest recordings ever put to any medium period. The reason I'm so drawn to their recording, I think, is that the moments when the choirs sing synchronously there is a definite moment when all of the voices snap into focus that separates what came before from what comes after, the briefest beat of silence before the apparent chaos aligns into glorious, transcendent order. I like that, it's very powerful, but I recognize that as an aesthetic preference and an interpretive choice. Silences can be very resonant. But what I wanted this to be is a 4 channel recreation of that very sharply focused presentation.
This recording's lines are softer. The synchronous sections slowly emerge from the "chaotic" sections (of course, I don't think it's *actually* chaotic, but that's the way that I envision it-- chaos and order pulling pushing against one another). It's not as emotionally satisfying to me, I suppose is how I could put it.
The other problem is very likely due to where this was recorded (at least i hope it wasn't a post-production choice)-- a tremendous amount of reverberation which further takes the piece out of focus. It sounds like it was recorded in a stone cathedral, which is where it would have been performed originally, of course, but the echoy reverberations make the multidirectionality of the recording less apparent as voices echo around and bleed across multiple channels and make it harder to appreciate the positioning of each choir.
Again, it's not *terrible* at ALL. It's quite pleasant to listen to and is very likely the closest that I will ever get to a true performance of this amazing piece of music. It is, in many ways, quite astounding and if you were to go in with few or no preconceptions of what it "should" sound like (I admit that I may have brought too many expectations and preconceptions to my listening) you will very likely be knocked on your butt listening to this through a multi-channel system balanced for music. It's hard to give it a star rating because I can't NOT recommend this, but at the same time, I have to reflect my disappointment.