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Penguin Guide, January 2009

This was one of the most remarkable recording of 2005 and fully worthy of the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Talli’s birth. Some of his greatest masterpieces are here, written for eight choirs of five voices. Spem in alium is justly the most famous. In order to replicate the circular effect intended by the composer, the producer here, Andrew Walton, and engineer Mike Clements, recorded the four choirs positioned in the form of four sides of a huge St Chad Cross. The result (especially at the climax of Spem in alium) is overwhelming. But the extended motet, Slaveintemerata, and its associated Mass are superb too, while the three English motets which complete the programme are by no means an anticlimax. The performances here are beyond praise, as is the skill of the Naxos recording team, while the acoustic of All Hallows, Gospel Oak, London, was ideally chosen for this remarkable enterprise. Alas the surround sound SACD of these performances has now been withdrawn, although the ‘normal’ CD sounds very impressive indeed.

Fanfare, November 2005

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Mary Kunz Goldman
The Buffalo News, October 2005

This has been a good year for Thomas Tallis. He is in the spotlight with not one, but two recordings of his astounding "Spem in alium," a motet for 40 mixed, independent voices. "Spem in alium" has a simple sentiment; its title comes from its first line, "I have never hoped in any other than thee, God of Israel." Complicated as it is on paper, the music is amazingly serene and uplifting. The choir's exquisite, measured voices present it with such grace that you can imagine it rising peacefully into the sky like a big balloon. . . . Naxos' recording, a tremendous bargain, goes on to show how Tallis, who was in the unenviable position of being Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England, also wrote deeply reverent music for the Anglican church.

John Quinn
MusicWeb International, September 2005

"This is a very satisfying disc, which I enjoyed greatly. It's a very appropriate celebration of the significant contribution that Jeremy Summerly and Oxford Camerata have made to the success of the Naxos label. As a limited edition, initial copies of this CD come with a bonus disc of “Early Choral Classics” [61:28]. This contains 13 tracks of music from medieval times to the age of polyphony and the majority are performed by Oxford Camerata.

I'm very happy to recommend this fine disc in its own right but as an anniversary celebration it's doubly welcome. Ad multos annos to both Oxford Camerata and Naxos!"

Classic FM, September 2005

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Sarah Bryan Miller
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 2005

A new recording on the budget Naxos label offers an inexpensive opportunity to become acquainted with "Spem" and several other remarkable unaccompanied pieces in fine performances . . . "Spem," with its eight choirs of five voices each, is a towering accomplishment, but the other pieces offer good singing by the Oxford Camerata's core choir of 12, led by Jeremy Summerly. They sing in a very English style, with the sopranos so pure in sound that they almost sound like boys, and a mixed corps of female altos working with male falsettists, the latter generally avoiding the edginess of tone to which the breed is prone.

Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, June 2005

"From time to time a disc comes across the desk that is so superior that you have to fish for criticisms. As I believe that a healthy balance of praise and constructive critique is a good thing, and lends more to the credibility of the writer, I never hesitate to make suggestions for improvement, even on the finest of recordings. Such is the case with this performance of music by the English master, Thomas Tallis. There is indeed little to call down here, and the negative comments that I do have about it are more the fault of the compositional style and the recording venue’s acoustics than any error on the part of ensemble or conductor.

Tallis served four British monarchs in his remarkable career, remarkable as much for what we do not know about it as for what we do. Actually, quite little is known about his life except that he was quite well known and respected from an early age and that he along with his student William Byrd, held an exclusive right to publish music in England under Elizabeth I and thus became financially as well as artistically secure.

His masterpiece is certainly the forty-voice Spem in alium. Written for eight five-voice choirs it is also a clever puzzle, with the composer’s name embedded in its compositional structure. Summerly’s Oxford Camerata is the perfect ensemble for this piece, singing with unusual clarity and spotless intonation. Often this work becomes a muddled wash of sound, but not so in this case. There are actually moments when one can pick out a phrase or two of text in the massive sound palette.

The motet Salve intemerata although beautifully sung is not as successful as the mass which parodies it later in the disc. In short, it is a bit long! And even the best of note-spinners can get spun out when the length of the text outweighs the cleverness of the ideas. The mass however, is astounding and if you buy this disc for nothing other than that, you will have gotten double your money’s worth. Missing a Kyrie, and a tenor part (skillfully reconstructed here), this is one of the most stunning mass settings ever to fall upon these jaded ears.

And, it is beautifully sung. Crystalline tone, superior enunciation and clarity of line make this one of the most memorable performances of a mass ordinary that I have ever heard.

The program is rounded out by a handful of English motets, hampered slightly by the basic unintelligibility of the texts. These are church anthems, meant to carry a message, and said message is lost when you cannot understand the words. Once in a while a phrase comes through, but more attention to this detail is wanting. With the echoing acoustic much text gets lost, so perhaps different microphone placement would have been a good solution.

This is a complete winner, even with my few little nit-pickings. Buy it soon; it is a spiritual experience."

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