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December 12, 2003

The Oregonian

Listening to the Tallis Scholars perform Palestrina's sacred Renaissance music is like standing under an enormous arch in a Roman cathedral. The sound soars overhead, suggesting height, grandeur and space defined by classical coolness and grounded in sonorities perfectly crafted to give a solid sound.

Allegri's "Miserere" has become a calling card for early-music choirs, with good reason. Repeating sections offer opportunities for understated ornamentation, but the soprano's high C's are the notes that pierce the heart. Phillips placed four singers, including the soprano soloist, at the back of the church and five singers and the cantor in front. Five times, the soprano soared over the texture, less ethereally than some, but still embellishing the descending line with pitch-perfect poise. Fluid, shapely singing marked Palestrina's "Stabat Mater" and "Nunc Dimittis," which were originally sung by the Papal Choir in the Sistine Chapel. The singing was vibrant and rich in detail, with exquisite rounding of phrases.

With a program of such elegance and restraint, harmonic dissonances took on added importance. Subtle changes of texture and rhythm assumed consequence. Palestrina was a supremely vocal composer, rarely writing leaps of more than five notes, and favoring stepwise motion. The Tallis Scholars knew exactly how much weight to give those dissonant moments. It was a concert to cherish. More

Posted by acapnews at December 12, 2003 9:15 AM

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