THE TALLIS SCHOLARS; 40th Anniversary Concert; St Paul's Cathedral; London, UK; PETER PHILLIPS - Conductor; Credit: © CLIVE BARDA/ArenaPAL. promotional photo from Gimell

The Tallis Scholars

This year the Tallis Scholars celebrates their 40th Anniversary of promoting sacred polyphonic music

In March 2013 the Tallis Scholars  – superstars of the early renaissance polyphony of the sacred ilk – celebrated their 40th anniversary with a concert in St. Paul’s in London. More than 2500 people packed the benches in both transepts and nave. With a mixture of highlights from their impressive repertoire, the scholars once more created an enjoyable evening for all their fans. Another highlight was the world premiere of a new composition by Eric Whitacre  – Sainte Chapelle –   – especially written to honour the Scholars.

With their distinct spiritual approach to their chosen repertoire, the scholars have had an impressive career. 40 years ago, when they started out, they were nothing but a bunch of dedicated and slightly nerdy students got together for their first concert in St. Mary Magdalen in Oxford. Today they are by any standards the most prominent of Early Music performers. This year a tour brings them all around the world on a bumper tour of more than a 100 concerts to such select venues as the Sydney Opera in October with enough time to be back in Canterbury Cathedral for a concert of Tudor Latin Music in November.

The story of the Tallis Schollars is indeed inspiring. It may be read in the most recent issue of Early Music Today the popular correspondent to the scholarly journal Early Music – LINK -. yet another jubilarian: 20 Years). Here the two leading performers, Dame Emma Kirkby and the leading director of the Scholars, Peter Phillips also presents the readers with good advice on how to get started with period-style singing .

Jean Mouton
Want to be seriously discouraged from such a project? One way is to listen to the most recent recording of the Tallis Scholars: The Missa Dictes Moy toutes voz pensées containing the full mass plus a number of his more celebrated motets.


Jean Mouton (c. 1459 – 30 October 1522) was a French composer of the Renaissance. He was famous both for his motets, which are among the most refined of the time, and for being the teacher of Adrian Willaert, one of the founders of the Venetian School. With an impressive international career starting at St. Omer and moving on to Amiens and Grenoble he entered the service of Queen Anne of Brittany, contributing to her refined world of art, poetry and music. Thus he ended up as the principal composer for the French court writing music for state occasions – weddings, coronations, papal elections, births and deaths. It has been suggested that Mouton was in charge of the elaborate musical festivities by the French at the meeting between François I and Henry VIII at the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Near the end of his life, Mouton moved to Saint-Quentin, where he may have been a canon, taking over for Loyset Compère who died in 1518. Mouton died in Saint-Quentin and is buried there.

When Tallis Scholars conductor Peter Phillips discovered the music of Jean Mouton, he was struck by the composer’s unique musical language.  His compositions underpin, according to Phillips, an incredible lyricism and sweetness of tone with music of the utmost in mathematical complexity. This combination was almost unparalleled and led Mouton to be routinely compared with Josquin in his lifetime.

The most substantial work on the recent recording is Mouton’s Missa Dictes moy toutes voz pensees. This piece stands out from the composers’ other fourteen masses by having an Agnus Dei scored for three basses alone. Accrding to Peter Phillips there is no other music from the Renaissance period that we know of that was scored this way. The disc also includes the motet Quis dabit oculis, written as a funeral motet for his patron Queen Anne of Brittany and a work that stands out for its simplicity. “Mouton mourns her in slow, utterly dignified and compelling lines that reduce to simple chords where her name “Anna” is mentioned”, says peter Phillips in the booklet accompanying the recording.

The Tallis Scholars

Mouton – Missa Dictes moy toutes voz pensées
The Tallis Scholars
Gimell: CDGIM 047
Total Playing Time 68 minutes



Early Music Today June-August 2013


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