Taverner - Missa Corona spinea
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Cat No: CDGIM046
Number of Discs: 1
Release Date: 30th October 2015
1Missa Corona Spinea - Gloria: Gloria In Excelsis Deo
2Missa Corona Spinea - Gloria: Qui Tollis
3Missa Corona Spinea - Credo: Credo In Unum Deo
4Missa Corona Spinea - Credo: Et Incarnatus Est
5Missa Corona Spinea - Sanctus: Sanctus And Hosanna I
6Missa Corona Spinea - Sanctus: Benedictus
7Missa Corona Spinea - Sanctus: Qui Venit
8Missa Corona Spinea - Sanctus: Hosanna II
9Missa Corona Spinea - Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei I
10Missa Corona Spinea - Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei II
11Missa Corona Spinea - Agnus Dei: Agnus Dei III
12Missa Corona Spinea - Agnus Dei: Dona Nobis Pacem
13Dum Transisset Sabbatum II: Dum Transisset
14Dum Transisset Sabbatum II: Ut Venientes
15Dum Transisset Sabbatum II: Alleluia
16Dum Transisset Sabbatum I: Dum Transisset
17Dum Transisset Sabbatum I: Ut Venientes
18Dum Transisset Sabbatum I: Alleluia
The main work is John Taverner's Missa Corona spinea, a festal mass setting dedicated to Christ's Crown of Thorns. Not as well known as his virtuosic Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, it is certainly every bit as demanding and captivating. It was possibly written for Cardinal Wolsey to show off his chapel choir at Cardinal College (now Christ Church), Oxford. Its radiant magnificence suggests it may have been performed in 1527 in the presence of Henry VIII and his queen, Catherine of Aragon, who had a special devotion to Christ's Passion.
Whatever the occasion, this is music that was clearly designed to impress. It's also a tour de force for the trebles, who for much of the time sail a clear octave over the other voices, in music of stratospheric spiritual ecstasy. Taverner has a sure sense of musical architecture too, with tutti and reduced voice sections alternating to push the music urgently forwards. Indeed, it is the reduced voice passages that often have the most profound effect, as at the beginning of the Sanctus, where the plainchant cantus firmus in the tenors provides a launchpad for the most extraordinary abstract lines in the trebles.
There are characteristically bold leaps forward from section to section, effected by textual overlap (as at 1'54" on the accompanying video of the Gloria – see the 'Sound & Video' tab on our product page). Also telling are the moments where Taverner uses the technique known as 'gimel', in which one or more lines divide into two parts of equal range: a dazzling effect for which this mass is justly renowned (try 40" into the 'Qui venit' section of the Sanctus).
The singing by the Tallis Scholars' two 'treble' voices – Janet Coxwell and Amy Haworth – is simply heavenly, and supported excellently by their colleagues on the lower five parts. Phillips shapes the music with an unerring sense of its structure, allowing its glories to blossom while maintaining a strong sense of momentum.
Taverner's two settings of the Easter respond Dum transisset Sabbatum ('When the Sabbath was over…') may not be quite so spectacular, but the first in particular (which concludes the disc) hints as similar spiritual heights. In these sumptuous performances they give a fascinating glimpse into the composer's mind, with two very distinct interpretations of the same text.
The Tallis Scholars' 2013 recording of Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas was a deserved chart topper, and if anything this latest disc – sensitively recorded in the Chapel of Merton College, and with fine accompanying notes by Phillips himself – should do even better. An astonishing disc, eagerly recommended!
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