The Tallis Scholars celebrated their 2,000th concert this autumn and were justly praised for bringing sacred polyphony out of church and library and on to the world’s concert platforms. Here they present one of the repertoire’s most challenging works, John Taverner’s mass for the Feast of the Crown of Thorns, probably commissioned by Cardinal Wolsey to show off his chapel choir’s particularly fine trebles. They must have been impressive, judging by the dizzyingly high and virtuosic singing of Janet Coxwell and Amy Haworth, who often hover a full angelic octave above the part below. A jealous Henry VIII probably heard it in 1527, an event that might have hastened Wolsey’s downfall.
Stephen Pritchard has written on classical music for most of his 45 years in journalism. He was the Observer's first readers' editor, and prior to that was a managing editor and production editor