MUSIC REVIEW : Passion From Tallis Scholars


Dedicated to early music repertoire since its founding in 1978, the Tallis Scholars are no newcomers to the recently popularized realm of centuries-old music. Their central role in the movement--not to mention their commanding musical presence--lured a full house to Ambassador Auditorium on Thursday.

In a program devoted almost entirely to vocal music of the 16th Century, the Tallis Scholars performance impressed mightily with engaging musicality, an ear for authenticity and scholarly interest. Led with a decisive hand by founding director Peter Phillips, the dozen-voice Tallis Scholars persuasively conveyed the unique and mesmerizing beauty of Renaissance polyphony.

Purity of tone and a seamless blend are hallmarks of the group, which gives proper weight and articulation to the hypnotic weave of the material.


Programmatically, the concert’s first half was of a piece, between Nicolas Gombert’s “Ego sum qui sum” and Phillippe Rogier’s more extended and elaborate mass based on the Gombert piece.

Renaissance titan Orlando de Lassus’ “Prophetiae Sibyllarum” opened the second half with its beguiling harmonic restlessness, in contrast to the timeless languor of the composer’s “Lamentations III (for Maundy Thursday),” which was also performed. Closing on a note of enigmatic simplicity, Allegri’s “Miserere” requires a split group, with singers answering the stage-center group with unearthly tones from the wings.

It all added up to a profound and transporting evening of music, courtesy of church musicians of 400 years hence, passionately purveyed by this ensemble. Testament to the appeal of early music, the music was of heaven and earth, then and now.