This is a truly excellent set, and at a bargain price. I have loved Tallis's music for many years and have some dearly loved recordings by The Tallis Scholars, the Hillard Ensemble and The Taverner Consort which won't be superseded by this set, but are certainly beautifully complemented by it. The approach of Alistair Dixon and Chapelle du Roi is calm and restrained, and the music glows as a result. The singers are very good, tuning is virtually faultless and the absence or restrained use of vibrato ideal. The overall sound is very warm, by and large, emphasised by resonant acoustics in all the recording venues, and this eight-year project is a very fine achievement which does real justice to one of England's greatest composers.
The music itself is magnificent. Obviously, in any Complete Works there will be some pieces of less interest to individual listeners, and while I'm not over-keen to hear lengthy organ settings of Felix namque on a regular basis, there will be those who are. There is a wealth of magnificent music - for example the motet Miserere nostri is, for me, two minutes of what Heaven sounds like and, of course, there are little-recorded gems to discover among the better-known pieces. A Complete Works also allows you to see how the changing religious politics of the Tudor period affected the way liturgical music was composed, from the overwhelmong, stunning 40-voice motet Spem in alium for Catholic worship under Mary to the spare but lovely Four Voice Mass to comply with Cranmer's new protestantism.
It's worth saying that Disc 9 - The Instrumental Music and Songs - was named by a recent reviewer on BBC Radio 3's CD Review as an Essential Tallis disc. Quite right, too, in my view - the playing by Charivari Agréable is excellent and the counter-tenor Stephen Taylor is very good, too. The disc also includes `Ye sacred muses', Byrd's stunning lament on Tallis's death, which is a real bonus.
Brilliant Classics make a pretty good job of the packaging. It's cardboard, but attractive and durable. All the original liner notes and texts are supplied on a CD-ROM as Adobe Acrobat files. It's good to have them, although you can't really sit down comfortably with the text in front of you as you could with a booklet. For so much superb music at such a price, though, this is a sacrifice well worth making.
This set is not only musically delightful, it is an outstanding bargain, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.