Tallis: Ave, Dei patris filia

by Fabrice Fitch (Gramophone - October 2015)

“This fifth volume of The Cardinall’s Musick’s complete Tallis edition features a coherent English set made up of Preces and Responses, the Dorian Short Service and concluding Litany.  Even at its most functional, it shows off Tallis’s knack for memorable concision when occasion demands.  This group is preceded by two mid-length motets, of which Christ rising again is especially memorable and utterly different from Byrd’s setting – a reminder that The Cardinall’s work perfectly well as an all-male ensemble, as their Byrd Masses demonstrated so long ago (ASV, A/00).

The sopranos join in for the most substantial piece on the recording, Ave, Dei patris filia, one of the Marian antiphons dating from the early part of Tallis’s career, and the last of them to be recorded as part of this cycle.  As a group they’re rather patchy and this one is inconsistent within itself; the extended duo that opens its second major section is rambling and unfocused, for example, whereas the concluding passages are rather stronger.  In all fairness it’s no wonder that the singers themselves struggle to impart much forward momentum where the composer himself gives them comparatively little to work with.  Of a different order altogether is the group of three Latin responsories that open the recording, in which the soloists fare admirably.  They are full-throated and muscular, the marvellous Homo quidam especially so.

At a guess, this cycle must be nearing the halfway mark, and already I’m curious as to whom The Cardinall’s will entrust the instrumental items (assuming this is truly intended as a complete edition).   At this rate they look set to eclipse the existing set from the Chapelle du Roi.  I await the next instalments with keen interest.”