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John Sheppard - Missa Cantate


Beata nobis gaudia

Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria

Gaude virgo Christiphera

Jesu salvator saeculi, redemptis

Laudem dicite

Martyr Dei qui unicum

"The Tallis Scholars’ first Sheppard disc, released in 1989, created a new icon of English renaissance polyphony – Media vita. This is our second Sheppard album, featuring such masterpieces as the Missa Cantate, and his only votive antiphon on a festal scale, Gaude virgo Christiphera. These are major works, in a mid-century style which Sheppard fashioned for himself. Since he wrote more than almost any of his contemporaries - and is still relatively under-recorded – there is still a long way to go with him."  Peter Phillips


Record of the Week - BBC Radio 3 Record Review - Andrew McGregor

"superbly polished, crystalline perfection - aren't we lucky that the singing is as magical as the music - perfect ensemble, impeccable tuning and a recording that allows everything to gleam and glitter - it's hard to believe the ensemble has been with us for half a century now, the sound is still so fresh and bright and new."

Gramophone - David Fallows

"all the qualities that have made The Tallis Scholars world leaders: absolute unanimity, perfect tuning, impeccable diction, stunning control and a seemingly effortless inevitability about everything they do.


Phillips fills the rest of his disc with Latin service music, including the gorgeous Gaude, gaude, gaude Maria, with its magical middle section for four close-harmony high voices and a bass, and ending up with the glorious motet Gaude virgo Christiphera, not previously recorded, I think, and a truly wonderful addition to the repertory of that most idiosyncratic of 16th-century composers"

The Times - Geoff Brown

"I'm in choral heaven with a Tudor master"

"there’s something particularly magical about Sheppard’s handling of stratospheric registers, where the voices spiral toward heaven"

"Phillips’s group played a major part in bringing Sheppard’s music out of the shadows, and it’s a joy to find them returning to the source and presenting another collection of such rewarding and uplifting music"

Ritmo (Spain) - Juan Fernando Duarte Borrero

On 3rd November 1973, a twenty-something Peter Phillips founded an ensemble whose ambition was to perform the highlights of renaissance vocal polyphony. Over time, The Tallis Scholars have become a reference-point for all lovers of this beautiful chapter in the history of Western vocal music. To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the English group has released a disc which highlights the Missa Cantate by John Sheppard, who lived between 1515 and 1558. Organist and composer, he wrote five masses, as well as two Magnificats and some motets, forming part of the rich English musical revival that developed in the Tudor period.

On this disc The Tallis Scholars display all the qualities which have characterised their career: a compact and powerful sound like that of a well-oiled machine that could make itself heard to the stars, but which never betrays the essence of the music by using a superficial or unnecessary effect, always maintaining a clarity of line that makes this group's performances something truly special. We always know, and understand, what is being sung.

John Sheppard may not be the best-known composer among lovers of Renaissance polyphony - a period that produced so many great masters - but there can be no doubt that The Tallis Scholars' performances here will leave no one indifferent. On this disc, Peter Phillips proves that he not only knows a great deal about this repertoire, but also has a thorough understanding of what underlies it.

Trans: Millán González Bernard Hughes

"In 1989 the Tallis Scholars’ first release of the music of John Sheppard pretty much singlehandedly rescued the composer from obscurity.


Sheppard, a master of the mid-16th century, roughly contemporary with Thomas Tallis, writes soaring vocal lines that revel in sweet consonance, occasionally coloured by the piquant false relations that were hallmarks of the English style. The centrepiece of this recording is the Missa Cantate, a six-part setting of the mass in the grandest style and on the broadest scale. The mass is a treat for the ears. The Gloria is like a gathering wave, beginning humbly but gradually assembling a weight of sound. The Credo is by turns airy and bright, and then intense and searching. This is the musical equivalent of an ornate stained-glass window with the sun pouring through. The second Hosanna has the cleanness of spring water, tumbling over itself in waves. It is gorgeous.

The other pieces are a mixture of votive antiphons, responsories and hymns, largely based around plainchant melodies. The highlight of these is probably the final piece, Gaude virgo Christiphera, which conductor Peter Phillips, in his invaluable liner notes, suggests is a late work because of its “ease of writing”. It is massive (11 minutes) but with the most confident architecture, and long spans of imitative melody that seem to constantly renew themselves. The singing is glorious here – as throughout. The tuning and blend is impeccable – of course it is, that is the Tallis Scholars’ stock in trade. The high singing, Sheppard’s hallmark, is ecstatic and effortless, and the whole disc, despite its essential seriousness, is joyous."

Financial Times - Richard Fairman

"What a decade the 1970s were for music. Spurred on by the explosion of interest in period instrument performance, many new ensembles started up, especially in the UK and the Netherlands, and they are now celebrating their 50th anniversaries.
Prime among them is the Tallis Scholars, a small, hand-picked professional choir, founded in 1973 by Peter Phillips.

It is more than 30 years since Phillips first turned his attention to John Sheppard. The reputation of the English Tudor composer has grown in the meantime, but this new disc of sacred music reaffirms his standing in between better-known contemporaries John Taverner and Thomas Tallis.

There are seven works on this recording, including the imposing Missa Cantate, Laudem dicite Deo for male voices only, and the richly scored seven-part Beata nobis gaudia. There is much tightly knit writing here, using fixed chant melodies, and from time to time hair-raising dissonances break through, as in the glorious “Amen” of J
esu salvator saeculi.


As always, the Tallis Scholars’ performances are pure and technically close to perfection, the use of high keys adding extra brilliance to their already bright sound. The recordings were made in the 12th-century Brinkburn Priory."

Musicweb International - John Quinn

"... they have made The Tallis Scholars a by-word for excellence in Tudor and European Renaissance polyphony over no less than fifty years. This new CD represents them at their very best and it’s a fine celebration of the ensemble’s first fifty years.

Choir & Organ - Rebecca Tavener

" ‘Astonishingly original’ opines Peter Phillips about Sheppard’s polyphony. He wants more of Sheppard’s music ‘out there’ and, yes, would that this were so! Here, the captivating vistas of the six-voice Missa Cantate appear alongside stunningly inventive examples of chant-based responsories, hymns and votive antiphons. Alternatim structures highlight the kaleidoscopic variety of Sheppard’s inspirations in music of sublime nobility, holding to Roman certainties as England ricochets between rulers, technically fascinating, upliftingly sonorous and spiritually nourishing. The singing is immaculate and joyously committed in an admirably clear and immediate recording. A composer of genius? Absolutely."

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