The Tallis Scholars Sing Thomas Tallis
Published: Nov 07, 2013
Thomas Tallis (1505 – 1585) wrote glorious music under the watchful eye of four English monarchs, some Catholic, some not.
His hand never wavered. He composed choral music in English, Latin, French and Italian — whatever served the preference of his royal master.
So outstanding is ‘Spem in alium’ that it still seems impossible that one mind without a computer could have managed it. To write for forty voices which do not repeat themselves in consecutive motion and not to lose control of the whole colossal edifice is to set a challenge which even the Art of Fugue scarcely rivals… Spem remains the ultimate technical challenge: supremely difficult to bring off, supremely rewarding when one comes near.
Other pieces are just as complex. For Peter Phillips — who founded the Tallis Scholars in 1978 and then mortgaged his house so he could start a record company — complexity is not the greatest challenge. No group tours more, no group releases more CDs. And no group is less rigid. Instead of castrati, Phillips goes modern and uses women. As for “authenticity,” it’s not a priority: “We have no idea what a Renaissance choir sounded like. I’m sure they didn’t sound anything like us.”