ALBUM TITLE: Collection: An English Passion
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
as its plainchant melody is first harmonised as a bass, then up through each voice in turn to soprano in the final verse.
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