Byrd, Tallis, Mundy, Gibbons, Sheppard

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Byrd,Gibbons,Mundy,Sheppard,Tallis
LABELS: Karuna
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: An English Passion
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Gaudium/Mark Levett
CATALOGUE NO: 109
Gaudium is a chamber choir of 18 young voices. Its sound is very beautiful indeed, in the ‘English Cathedral’ tradition, with altos including men, and a charmingly guileless quality from boy-like sopranos. They sing wholly unaccompanied in this, their first commercial recording, an exciting challenge which may explain momentary soprano sharpness. Generally, though, they sustain the spine-chilling purity of near-perfect ‘just’ intonation. The choir is served by the most enthralling acoustic I’ve heard on disc for a long time, in the 18th-century London church of St John at Hackney. Each note lingers to colour the next, lines sound effortlessly sculpted, and Levett sustains a fine sense of direction despite some slow tempi – of Tallis’s Lamentations for instance. Nor is detail obscured. Voices audibly break in grief at ‘desolata’, Jerusalem left desolate, in Byrd’s Civitas sancti tui; two hymns are phrased in heartfelt response to the text. One of these, Byrd’s ‘Christe qui lux es’, is particularly striking harmonically

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as its plainchant melody is first harmonised as a bass, then up through each voice in turn to soprano in the final verse.

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The programming is imaginative, Lenten and Passiontide music by English composers creating the context for remarkable variety within an overall mood of penitential contemplation. George Pratt