Review By William J Gatens,American Record Guide,March 2009
This is the second of a pair of discs from Paul Hillier and Ars Nova Copenhagen under the title “Taverner & Tudor Music”. In each case, a polyphonic mass by John Taverner (c1490–1545) is presented with music by elder and younger contemporaries. The first recording (DaCapo 8.226050) combined Taverner’s Western Wind Mass with non-liturgical settings of English carol texts on the Passion of Christ by Cornysh, Sheryngham, and Browne plus a Compline respond setting by Christopher Tye. The present program combines Taverner’s Gloria Tibi Trinitas Mass with plainsong propers for the mass and office for Trinity Sunday, a Magnificat by Robert Fayrfax (1464–1521),
Gloria Tibi Trinitas is one of three six-part festal masses by Taverner. It is a cantus firmus mass based on a psalm antiphon from Second Vespers of Trinity Sunday. Apart from being an outstanding work in its own right, it gave rise to an English instrumental genre, the “In Nomine”. Taverner’s setting of the text “In Nomine Domini” from the Benedictus of this mass was so admired that it was often transcribed separately for instruments, and a great many composers wrote original instrumental fantasias based on the same cantus firmus, There are two examples in the viol fantasias of Henry Purcell.
Taverner’s mass was probably written during the composer’s brief tenure (1526–1530) as the first master of choristers at Cardinal College, Oxford, founded by Thomas Wolsey and later refounded (1546) by Henry VIII as the present day Christ Church, whose chapel is also the cathedral of the Diocese of Oxford. In many respects Taverner’s mass is a continuation of the aesthetic found among the older generation of composers whose works are in the Eton Choirbook (c1505). It is a style that cultivates an otherworldly ecstasy, unfolding the text with solemn deliberation, often with long flights of intricate counterpoint that may prolong single syllables. Another prominent characteristic is the alternation of passages for the full ensemble with sections for fewer voices. It is fascinating to compare on a single recording Taverner’s mass with the Magnificat Regale by Fayrfax (from the Eton Choirbook).
The small choral ensemble (3–3–5–4 for the present recording, though for some pieces the alto section is expanded to five voices) has straight-toned sopranos and altos—very much a modern-day early-music choral sound that is especially suited to the delineation of contrapuntal lines. The performances are technically unimpeachable, but, more than that, they have an expressive warmth we do not always hear in music from this period. It is not a matter of self-indulgent subjectivity, but I believe it to be the result of a keen sense of phrase trajectory that is so essential in this idiom, with its long, soaring lines.
Listeners who admire this repertory will not go wrong with this recording and its companion volume.
Review By John Terauds,Toronto Star,February 2009
In their second album of music featuring English composer John Taverner (who died in 1545), this a capella group has assembled a sung Mass that incorporates Taverner’s Gloria tibi Trinitas setting with a selection of other richly polyphonic works by contemporaries and some plainsong chant.
This is nearly 74 minutes of gorgeously balanced, acoustically spacious, aural bliss. There’s something new to appreciate with every fresh spin.
Review By ,Infodad.com,January 2009
Taverner & Tudor Music II is, as the title indicates, the second disc of music featuring the excellent Danish vocal ensemble Ars Nova Copenhagen [TAVERNER & TUDOR MUSIC I: The Western Wind is available on DACAPO 8.226050]. There is some glorious music of England’s Tudor era here, represented primarily by—as the CD’s subtitle makes clear—the Mass Gloria tibi Trinitas by John Taverner (c. 1490-1545). The CD’s arrangement, though, is well-meant in theory but rather capricious in practice. Taverner’s work, like other Masses, is of course intended to be sung in sequence, from the “Gloria” to the “Agnus Dei.” But on this CD, other works