Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Tallis Scholars, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Ken Walton.
It’s astonishing to think that the Tallis Scholars are still going strong after 42 years, sounding as fresh and focused as ever in their preferred repertoire, the a cappella gems of the Renaissance Golden Age, coupled with a fondness for modern reinterpretations, such as the spiritually-ambient choral music of Estonian Arvo Pärt.
That combination made up yesterday’s recital, three of Pärt’s idiosyncratic motets providing a refreshing complement to the ingrained English polyphony of Tallis, Byrd and Sheppard.
Under founding director Peter Phillips, the 12-string vocal ensemble eschewed a one-style-fits-all approach, finding a raw, linear definition, for instance, in Tallis’s uplifting Pentecostal motet, Loquebantur variis linguis, countered by the greater harmonic and textural vitality and structural delineation of John Sheppard’s extensive Media vita, its recurring cadential triad ringing each time with golden purity, thanks to the pristine intonation.
There were further Tudor delights in the sinuous harmonic flow of Byrd’s Nunc dimittis, and in other examples of Tallis and Sheppard. But it was Pärt’s own Nunc dimittis, with its gradually descent into deep male sonorities and tolling bass, and the gestural narrative style off Tribute to Caesar that stole the show.
Published in The Scotsman on 11 August 2015
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