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The Tallis Scholars
Richard Termine

The Tallis Scholars

The Tallis Scholars were founded in 1973 by their director, Peter Phillips. Through their recordings and concert performances, they have established themselves as the leading exponents of Renaissance sacred music throughout the world. Peter Phillips has worked with the ensemble to create, through good tuning and blend, the purity and clarity of sound which he feels best serve the Renaissance repertoire, allowing every detail of the musical lines to be heard. It is the resulting beauty of sound for which The Tallis Scholars have become so widely renowned.

The Tallis Scholars perform in both sacred and secular venues, usually giving around 70 concerts each year across the globe. In 2013 the group celebrated their 40th anniversary with a World Tour performing 99 events in 80 venues in 16 countries and traveling sufficient air-miles to circumnavigate the globe four times. They kicked off the year with a spectacular concert in St Paul’s Cathedral, London, including a performance of Thomas Tallis’ 40-part motet Spem in alium and the world premieres of works written specially for them by Gabriel Jackson and Eric Whitacre. Their new recording of the Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas by the 16th Century Tudor composer, John Taverner, was released on the exact anniversary of their first concert in 1973 and enjoyed six weeks at number one in the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart.

The Tallis Scholars’ career highlights have included a tour of China in 1999, including two concerts in Beijing; and the privilege of performing in the Sistine Chapel in April 1994 to mark the final stage of the complete restoration of the Michelangelo frescoes, broadcast on Italian and Japanese television. The ensemble have commissioned many contemporary composers during their history: in 1998 they celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a special concert in London’s National Gallery, premiering a Sir John Tavener work written for the group and narrated by Sting. A further performance was given with Sir Paul McCartney in New York in 2000. The Tallis Scholars are broadcast regularly on radio (including performances from the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2013) and have also been featured on the acclaimed ITV program The Southbank Show.

Much of The Tallis Scholars reputation for their pioneering work has come from their association with Gimell Records, set up by Peter Phillips and Steve Smith in 1980 solely to record the group. In February 1994 Peter Phillips and The Tallis Scholars performed on the 400th anniversary of the death of Palestrina in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, Rome, where Palestrina had trained as a choirboy and later worked as Maestro di Cappella. The concerts were recorded by Gimell and are available on both CD and DVD.

Recordings by The Tallis Scholars have attracted many awards throughout the world. In 1987 their recording of Josquin’s Missa La sol fa re mi and Missa Pange lingua received Gramophone magazine’s Record of the Year award, the first recording of early music ever to win this coveted award. In 1989 the French magazine Diapason gave two of its Diapason d’Or de l’Année awards for the recordings of a mass and motets by Lassus and for Josquin’s two masses based on the chanson L’Homme armé. Their recording of Palestrina’s Missa Assumpta est Maria and Missa Sicut lilium was awarded Gramophone‘s Early Music Award in 1991; they received the 1994 Early Music Award for their recording of music by Cipriano de Rore; and the same distinction again in 2005 for their disc of music by John Browne. The Tallis Scholars were nominated for a Grammy Award in 2001, 2009, and 2010. In November 2012 their recording of Josquin’s Missa De beata virgine and Missa Ave maris stella received a Diapason d’Or de l’Année and in their 40th anniversary year they were welcomed into the Gramophone Hall of Fame by public vote.