Review by: David Vernier
Artistic Quality: 10
Sound Quality: 10
First, it’s wonderful to have the Tallis Scholars back, doing what they do best–and if you had any concerns that this remarkable Renaissance ensemble had changed anything (other than some of its personnel), you need do no more than listen to the first minute or so of this excellent program, which in sound and style and overall production values is equal to or better than any of the group’s most celebrated earlier efforts. Flemish composer Nicolas Gombert (c.1495-c.1560) was an illustrious member of the court of Charles V. A master of imitative counterpoint, he preferred writing for as many parts as possible–up to eight in the works featured here–cramming them into tight, densely textured structures that resonate with shimmering dissonances and unusually rich, vibrant consonant harmonies. This is perfect music for the clear, accurate, ideally balanced Tallis Scholars voices, who capture the relentless momentum and inevitable flow of the melodic lines while ratcheting the dynamic and dramatic intensity to exhilarating levels, especially in the closing pages of Magnificats 3 and 4. Experienced listeners will note the prevalence of lower voices–no soprano in Magnificats 2 and 4; three tenor and two bass parts in Magnificat 3–that lend the music its plush, dark, ear-friendly timbre, a quality that’s enhanced by expert engineering that literally wraps you in sound.
These four Magnificats are part of a group of eight (I assume we’ll be hearing the other four before long) that according to conductor Peter Phillips represent “the summation of all that [the composer] had striven for in his music.” Listeners unfamiliar with these works will be surprised by their sophistication, complexity, and incredible power, equal in effect to compositions by more renowned composers such as Tallis, Weelkes, or Tomkins. This is a significant and by all measures welcome release, seasoned with informative notes by Phillips and brimming with the promise of more intriguing, worthwhile repertoire and first class Tallis Scholars performances in the coming months and years. (And it’s also reassuring to see those original distinctive Gimell/Tallis Scholars CD covers recalled to life.)
Buy Now from Arkiv Music
NICOLAS GOMBERT - Magnificats 1-4