Allegri's Miserere & Palestrina's Missa Papae Marcelli

Music written for the Sistine Chapel, including two new recordings of Allegri's Miserere - one with the familiar top Cs, and one with additional embellishments developed by Deborah Roberts during hundreds of concert performances.

Ultra quality stereo and surround sound on your Blu-ray Player.

The Blu-ray disc has 24bit/96kHz audio in:

  • Surround 5.1 DTS HD MA

  • Surround 5.1 Dolby True HD

  • Stereo PCM


There is no video. With a network Blu-ray player you can download stereo files from the disc to your computer in Apple Lossless, FLAC and WMA formats in 24bit/96kHz and 16bit/44.1kHz audio and also as MP3 files.

The Pure Audio Blu-ray pack includes one Blu-ray disc, one standard Compact Disc and a 24-page printed booklet with notes, texts and translation.

To buy the Pure Audio Blu-ray pack please click the link to the Hyperion Records website.

GIMBD 641
Pure Audio Blu-ray

A reissue of the famous recording first released in 2007, this offers the most stunningly realistic high-definition surround sound this reviewer has heard. Producer Steve Smith has taken pains to recreate the acoustic of Merton College Chapel in the 3D aural image, making for the ultimate in immersive listening.

The Editor

Classical Music Magazine

This recording, released in 2007, contains music that is the most requested repertory of this storied group in their entire 40-plus year history. They first recorded the legendary Miserere back in 1980, and followed it up with a recording and video from the Sistine Chapel in 1994*, one of the glories of the early music catalog. Finally they decided to put all of these popular potboilers on one disc, themed around music for the Sistine Chapel, and the results were, as you might expect, stunning to say the least.

There have been lots of recording of the Allegri; this one offers two takes, one with "embellishments" by soprano Deborah Roberts, going on the premise that one of the things that made this piece so wedded to the Sistine Chapel's secrecy is the fact of its improvisations. The piece actually had escaped the confines of the church even before young 14-year-old Mozart's writing it down from memory, but it lacked that last little bit of specialty that only the living tradition of performance within the church walls could give. This represents one shot at such a possible interpretation, and it is very nice. The first version of the standard work without the additional embellishments has never been sung better. These folks own this work.

The Palestrina selections are also wonderful, the Missa one of those works that supposedly "saved" polyphony when the Catholic Church was about to revert to Gregorian chant alone. Palestrina, using an enhanced one-word-to-a-note declamatory style, demonstrated that the music could be understood and polyphony given in such a fashion as to truly enhance worship. Well, whether it really happened like that is most likely a huge oversimplification, but there is much truth to it, and the Scholars sing it to perfection, as they do the affecting Stabat mater and the Sistine Chapel Roman requisite Tu es Petrus.

This Blu-ray Audio release demonstrates how these discs should be done - high quality stereo tracks, and surround sound 5.1 tracks for DTS MA and Dolby TrueHD. The sound is simply gorgeous here, the DTS taking the prize as usual, though the Dolby is nothing to snuff at. This album is a treasure to begin with - this release only enhances its value, which is exactly what this technology should do.

Editor's note:

* the 1994 video and sound recording was made in the Roman Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and not in the Sistine Chapel.

Steven Ritter

Musicweb Recording of the Year for The Tallis Scholars' first Pure Audio Blu-ray release.

It is 40 years since Peter Phillips founded The Tallis Scholars, and perhaps appropriate that they have chosen to move into the "new" technology of Blu-ray audio by re-releasing the most celebrated piece of their repertoire, Allegri's Miserere. Dan Morgan's review describes this as a resounding success, and a landmark. Enough said.

The Editor

With some trepidation I switched to the Blu-ray, and the difference was astonishing. Gone are the tiring digital edge and the flattened perspectives. In their place there's a palpable warmth and a wonderful sense of the Merton Chapel's acoustic. Individual voices are more easily discerned - they have remarkable presence, too - and the antiphonal effects are simply breathtaking. Admittedly, high Renaissance polyphony isn't my usual ‘beat', but I found the radiant weave of this glorious music deeply affecting. I doubt the work's empyrean splendour or the Tallis Scholars' finely calibrated singing have ever been this well caught on record.
 
The 'hear through' quality of this BD-A is even more apparent in Palestrina's austerely beautiful setting of the Stabat Mater. Under the direction of Peter Phillips these singers achieve a seamless line and purity of tone that's just ravishing to behold. As for the recording it has a wonderful texture - as if the music itself were a fine fabric - a tactile quality I've only encountered on a handful of SACDs. Indeed, audiophiles who dismiss PCM in favour of DSD would do well to hear this recording. Remember how the critics likened the advent of CDs to the lifting of a veil? Given the grim sound of those early discs that was a tad fanciful, but this BD-A really is the genuine article.
 
Palestrina's answer to those doubters at the Council of Trent is eloquently framed in his Missa Papae Marcelli, the longest work on this disc. From the glowing strands of the Kyrie through to a Benedictus that falls like gentle rain and a radiant Agnus Dei this is a performance that moves and breathes in the most natural and unfettered way. High loveliness is the only way to characterise this music and these musicians. The disc ends with a gorgeous interplay of voices in the motet Tu es Petrus and the embellished Miserere, where effortlessly pitched high Cs glitter like distant diadems in the raftered gloom.
 
Huzzahs all round, for this is an exceptional release. The Blu-ray demonstrates just how good high-res audio can be; if you don't relish the idea of downloads then this is as good as it gets.
 
Gimell have clearly put a lot of thought into their debut release, and if other labels follow suit the BD-A project deserves to succeed. I'm certainly a convert, but others - perhaps jaded by too many competing formats - could be harder to persuade.
 
Gimell's first BD-A is a resounding success; a landmark in every way.

Dan Morgan

One of the classical world's best-known recordings - The Tallis Scholars' 2007 set for Gimell of works by Allegri and Palestrina, including the former's Miserere - is coming to Pure Audio Blu-ray at the beginning of December. True, it's not the first Pure Audio Blu-ray disc - labels including 2L already have such releases, and indeed the Norwegian company developed the format in association with Munich studio MSM. Neither is it Gimell's first surround release, as the label already has a small range of works, including this recording, available for download in both 'studio master' stereo and high-resolution surround. However, Steve Smith, the producer of all The Tallis Scholars' high-resolution recordings, sees the availability of the set on Blu-ray as an important move in making high-resolution and surround sound accessible to more listeners. He says, ‘Unlike previous format launches, millions of customers already own the equipment needed to play these discs. One player for both high definition pictures and high resolution sound must be the right way to go.' And no doubt with an eye to the impending festive season, he adds ‘High resolution downloads are fine for audiophile specialists but they don't work well as gifts. Pure Audio Blu-ray opens new opportunities.'

 

The disc itself is playable on any Blu-ray player or home cinema system and, when used with a suitable home cinema receiver and speakers - or indeed played on one of those all-in-one systems - offers the listener the choice of 5.1-channel surround sound in 24-bit/96kHz DTS HD Master Audio or 24/96 Dolby True HD, plus 24/96 PCM stereo.

The formats can be selected from the start-up menu if you have the player connected to a TV, or by using the colour-coding on the packaging and the four colour buttons on every Blu-ray player remote control handset. In addition the disc offers further formats for download to a home computer and playback via network music devices, or the computer itself. Using the mShuttle system you merely have to key in the IP address of the Blu-ray player in a browser on a computer on the same network, and then a variety of stereo sound formats, along with artwork and booklet, can be downloaded.

 

The recording itself comprises the Allegri Miserere in both the best-known ‘embellished' version - with the high Cs - and a version with further embellishments on the embellishments by Deborah Roberts, developed over more than 300 performances of the work. In addition there are three works by Palestrina - the Stabat Mater, Missa Papae Marcelli and Tu es Petrus - and all the pieces were recorded in surround sound in the chapel of Merton College, Oxford. However, the Allegri is the standout on this disc in sonic terms, with its main choir set before us, and the soloists separated off in the surrounding acoustic, for a truly atmospheric effect that's quite captivating.

 

Yes, it's possible to get these recordings and more from the Gimell website, where they're available in both 48kHz and 96kHz surround versions in a choice of FLAC or WMA, or in a wide range of stereo from MP3 up to Studio Master 96kHz FLAC. However, for some users downloading files and setting up their computers to play high-resolution music can be something of a faff, so the ‘physical' version makes a lot of sense.

 

Pure Audio Blu-ray is just one of an ever-growing range of formats, routes and systems for the delivery of high-resolution audio into the home, but for many users it may just turn out to be the simplest. For which reason, the more recordings become available in this way, the better.

Andrew Everard published another review on his own website.

Andrew Everard

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