Christopher Tye flourished as a church musician in England during the mid-sixteenth century. A direct contemporary of Thomas Tallis, he held the prestigious post of Master of Choristers at Ely cathedral and successfully managed to compose music for both Protestant and Catholic services during a politically unstable time. Henry VIII was a fan, asserting: ‘England one god, one truth, one doctor hath for music’s art—and that is Dr Tye’ (Tye himself had Protestant leanings).
The composer was also described as ‘peevish and humoursome’, and these qualities are reflected in his remarkably individual music, characterized by unpredictable cadences and phrases of often unexpectedly startling beauty. The two major works on this recording are his masterful Missa Euge bone for six voices, and his Western Wynde Mass, probably an early work, and likely written as a complement to John Taverner’s own Mass based on this secular English song.
The peerless Westminster Abbey Choir directed by James O’Donnell performs these sparsely beautiful a cappella works with customary freshness and sense of grandeur.
“Tye was described as peevish, and it shows. The Gloria of his magnificent Missa Euge bone brings you up short with some startlingly grumpy gestures and intriguing harmonic shifts, but the dark clouds never last long...Westminster Abbey Choir are on brilliant form here, trebles crisp and alert and lay vicars forthright and muscular.” The Observer, 22nd April 2012
“Immediately one is introduced to Tye's extraordinary sound-world of unusual cadences and rigorous alternation of high and low voices to achieve impressive effects. All of these are carefully allowed to speak for themselves thanks to the judicious direction of [James O'Donnell]...one is able to savour the excellent diction of the singers.” International Record Review, July 2012
“This disc offers a good sample of Tye's music for both denominations...These are good, sturdy performances. If I have a criticism it is that there's a doggedness about the boy trebles that becomes wearying. Where the men sing alone...the phrasing is more shapely. But the simple, syllabic setting of Give almes of thy goods and the smoothly flowing Nunc dimittis are beautifully done.” Gramophone Magazine, August 2012
“[the choir] are on crack form here, near flawless in ensemble and intonation. The trebles perform with real fervour, their sheer, plangent sound complemented by the dusky lower voices. O'Donnell responds to the texts in shaping the unbroken melodic lines, and draws readings that are ardent...radiant...candid...and celestial” BBC Music Magazine, October 2012 ****