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The excitement, relief and eventual disappointment generated by the Bishop of London’s premature announcement in 1555 that Mary and Philip were going to have a baby is reflected in the sumptuous music on this new Signum CD performed with supreme artistry by vocal group Gallicantus. 10 singers are featured, and though no more than seven sing at any one time, their tone is universally vibrato-free but never cold.

Most items are for male voices, but the four show off the beauty of Zoe Brookshaw’s laser-beam soprano, holding her own on lines once delivered by 20 boys. She has clarion power in Lassus’ Te spectant Reginalde, an understandably little-known gem for Cardinal Reginald Pole, Henry VIII’s cousin, returning to London from the continent to take over as Archbishop of Canterbury. Apparently Lassus was in London with a diplomatic party, so great was the interest in Catholic Europe about England’s future.

The fascinating and anonymous sleeve note attributes Christopher Tye’s long, seven-part, richly polyphonic and repentant Peccavimus cum patribus to the period of contrition as England prepared to return to Rome. The singers nurse the lines with the greatest care, distinguishing the sections with subtle colours and allowing the work to peak at its natural climax on desiderium (desire) with a gloriously indulgent Amen to conclude and a radiant, fifth-high final cadence – the very expression of optimism. Plainsong proliferates with immaculate articulation which is down to leader and founder Gabriel Crouch, an ex-King’s Singer. He sings alone Tallis’ Like as the Doleful Dove with plaintive simplicity and lute accompaniment by Liz Kenny arranged from the original four voices. Brilliant both musicologically and artistically.

Rick Jones Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Early Music Today, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing