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The album cover for The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd by Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars. A detail from Madonna and Child with Angels by Fra Filippo Lippi (c. 1406-69).

The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd

"England has never produced a greater composer than William Byrd. His music for the Anglican Church has been sung without interruption since the 16th century. In stark contrast his Catholic music was not heard for over 300 years. This specially-priced selection of previously-issued recordings compares the formal public style of Byrd's Anglican works like The Great Service with the plangent intimacy of his Masses and motets." Peter Phillips

CDGIM 208 - No longer available on CD

We've written about the performances here before, both reviewing them and citing them in comparisons with others. Now they've been collected as part of a series of compilations that Gimell has prepared (others include sets of Tallis, Palestrina and Josquin).

There's little point in repeating our unreserved recommendations of these recordings. This is a self-recommending re-issue, and there's nothing for me to do except point out that it is available and urge you to get it.


American Record Guide

Artistic Quality - 10 / 10
Sound Quality  - 10 / 10

Few things are as satisfying to a choral music fan as spending an hour or two listening to the Tallis Scholars sing the music of William Byrd. A speciality of this ensemble for more than two decades, Byrd's masses, motets, and anthems are among the greatest sacred choral works of Elizabethan England--and thus the late Renaissance--and their beauty and complexity always seem to inspire these singers to a level of expressive effect that most other choirs never achieve. This two-CD set offers the opportunity to observe the "fundamental difference in outlook between [Byrd's] Protestant and Catholic writing" (in particular The Great Service and the three Masses) and provides an all-in-one source from which to indulge in his best-known and most revered works.

If you already own the two-disc set issued in the early-'90s to commemorate the 450th anniversary of Byrd's birth (or you own the original 1984 and 1987 recordings from which that compilation was made), you have most of what's offered here--this new release is taken entirely from existing recordings. The newest material--three motets and an Anglican anthem--comes from a BBC production, "Playing Elizabeth's Tune", that aired a few years ago and is also available as a DVD.

Whatever their provenance or recording venue, these performances have stood as reference versions since they were released, combining a rich bass sound with bright, clear treble and carefully balanced interior voices in the very responsive acoustics of places such as Oxford's Merton College Chapel or Tewkesbury Abbey. All that remains to be said is if you love English Renaissance choral music and you don't already have The Tallis Scholars' Byrd in your collection, there's no time like the present to acquire this essential--and now specially priced--set.


David Vernier

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