The Tallis Scholars

perform Tallis, Allegri and Arvo Pärt

Part of Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15 Concert Package, SoundBite,
Birmingham International Concert Season 2014/15, Vocal Music and Early Music
Thursday 4th June
Symphony Hall

The Tallis Scholars
Peter Phillips conductor

Tallis Loquebantur variis linguis 4’
Taverner Leroy Kyrie 5’
Mouton Nesciens mater 5’
Pärt The Woman in the Alabaster Box 6’
Tribute to Caesar 6’
Tallis Sanctus deus 6’
Sheppard Libera nos, salva nos 1 and 2 3’
Allegri Miserere 12’
Tallis Miserere 3’
Pärt Triodion 15’
Which was the Son of… 8’

Encore – text by Donne / music by Harris – Bring Us, Oh Lord God…

For 42 years, The Tallis Scholars have been the world’s pre-eminent performers of early vocal music. But they’ve long since turned their intense commitment and ravishing purity of sound on vocal music from later centuries and our own.

This concert under their founder-director Peter Phillips counterpoints renaissance classics by Tallis and Allegri with the searching, profoundly beautiful new visions of Arvo Pärt.

Oliver Condy, Editor of BBC Music Magazine, explains his recommendation:

The Tallis Scholars combine great works, not least Tallis’s and Allegri’s sublime but achingly plangent Miserere settings, with the music of Arvo Pärt, a contemporary choral great.

6.15pm Pre-concert conversation with Peter Phillips.

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Review by John Quinn, SeenandHeard, MusicWeb:

Click here for full review

…     “Returning to Tudor Polyphony, we heard pieces by Tallis and by John Sheppard. It was shrewd to juxtapose the quite slender Sanctus Deus with the two Sheppard pieces, which are much more rich of texture. I especially admired Libera nos, salva nos I which spans a tremendous range from the firm bass lines up to the flamboyant, soaring soprano parts. The Tallis Scholars’ sopranos were fantastic here, their pure, clear tone soaring above the ensemble.

In What We Really Do Peter Phillips relates that, in response to popular demand, the group has performed Allegri’s Miserere more than any other piece of music. Between 1979 and the end of 2012 they had sung it 370 times and I daresay there have been a few more performances since. How on earth do you keep a piece fresh after so many outings, especially when the piece is, frankly, somewhat repetitious? Well, part of the answer seems to lie in imaginative – but definitely not gimmicky – presentation. Here Phillips made excellent use of the spatial opportunities offered by the venue, His main consort of five singers (SSATB)was placed at the front of the stage, right in front of him. The SATB semi-chorus was positioned high above the platform, right in front of the organ console. That much I had half-expected. What came as a very pleasant surprise was that the chant passages were sung by three off-stage tenors. These singers were high up somewhere in the backstage area – on the same level as the semi-chorus – and we heard their singing in the distance, wafting through the partially opened acoustic doors at the right-hand side of the stage, as if from a distant cloister. It was a most effective and thoughtful presentation of this over-familiar piece.

The full ensemble returned to the front of the stage for Tallis’s Miserere. This is infinitely more compact than Allegri’s piece, setting just one line of Psalm 51 in a tone of gentle supplication. It’s a brief but eloquent piece, given a beautifully poised performance here.

Pärt’s Triodion is a fascinating piece, heavily indebted to Orthodox liturgical music, which is refracted through the composer’s own style. Alexandra Coghlan memorably commented that in the piece “we can clearly hear the contemporary ghost-double of Faburden chant, transformed here in collision with Pärt’s own Orthodox faith and spare soundworld.”  I don’t doubt for a minute that the element of Faburden chant is present though so far in listening to the piece I’ve found the Orthodox influence is much more evident. Perhaps it’s that influence that accounts for the greater richness of choral texture that we hear in this piece compared to many of the composer’s vocal pieces.  Each of the three Odes, which are sung without a break, ends with a short plea for mercy. In these passages Pärt’s writing is particularly masterly. He manages to invest the music most effectively with an air of hesitancy and humility. That’s especially evident at the end of the first Ode where marginally different note values in the various parts give an impression of what I can only call “stammering”. Triodion is a most affecting and prayerful composition and it here received a magnificent performance.”     …

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Review by David Hart, Birmingham Post:

Click here for full review

… “What makes the Tallis Scholars so special is not what they sing, but how they sing it. Their founder-director Peter Phillips is, in the best sense of the word, a purist, who believes Renaissance sacred choral music can speak for itself, without exaggerated dynamics or dramatic excess. […]

[…] Even more rewarding were the four works by Pärt. ‘The Woman with the Alabaster Box’, in which sustained upper voices provide a connecting thread to a harmonised recitative, explored a wide range of tessitura and sonorities; ‘A Tribute to Caesar’, with the simplest of means, made poignant use of discords as parts nudged into each other; ‘Which was the Son of…’ offered a quite rhythmically catchy (for Pärt) account of Christ’s family tree; and ‘Triodion’, where Pärt echoes aspects of Renaissance style in an incantatory sequence of spiritual odes, hit all the right emotional buttons. Sheer magic.”

*****

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