Taverner: Missa Corona Spinea etc | CD review


John Taverner was arguably the most important English composer of the first quarter of the 16th century, and a major influence on the generations that came after him, including those of Thomas Tallis, William Byrd and even Henry Purcell. Though the more scurrilous claims about his life (some of which form the basis of the plot of Peter Maxwell Davies's great 1970s opera Taverner) have since been disproved, many of the details, at least up to the mid-1520s, when he took up a post at Oxford University, remain sketchy, and the dating of his compositions is often approximate. The great masterpiece on this disc, though, the six-part Missa Corona Spinea, almost certainly dates from Taverner's years in Oxford before the reformation. The mass is surrounded here by smaller-scale pieces, including two settings of the Easter responsory Dum Transisset Sabbatum, and the austere five-part antiphon O Splendor Glorie, which may or not have been composed by Taverner himself. The performances by the mixed choir of Edinburgh Cathedral are caught in a wonderfully vivid, close acoustic, so the beautifully elaborate polyphony seems all-embracing.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

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