English Motets Works by Tallis, Byrd, Tomkins, Sheppard, White, Dunstaple, Morley, Taverner, Cornysh, Gibbons and Parsons
The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park
Hyperion CDA68256 72:57 mins
The one-to-a-part vocal consort seems to be enjoying something of a golden age right now, and latest to pitch its tent in the recording catalogue is the all-male, countertenor-topped Gesualdo Six. The name might suggest a Sicilian mobster outfit, but it acknowledges the murderous Renaissance composer whose Maundy Thursday Tenebrae Responseries graced the group’s inaugural performance four years back. And while Renaissance music initially formed the bedrock of the consort’s programming, with composer Owain Park at the helm, the repertoire has broadened – Park himself happy to lend an extra voice whenever a ‘Gesualdo Seven’ is required.
Hyperion must be assuming that their reputation precedes them. The disc cover proclaims a grey-on-white austerity; and while the title can’t be faulted on grounds of accuracy, ‘English Motets’ gives little hint of the glorious treasure trove lurking within. Mustering such favourites as Byrd’s Vigilate, Tallis’s Loquebantur variis linguis, Tomkins’s When David heard, and Dunstaple’s Veni Sancte Spiritus, the line-up might play safe, but it’s all exquisitely done, collegiate smoothness and blend to the fore. And what blend! The harmonic voicing is immaculate yet always sensitive to the imperatives of the polyphonic flow – witness the plight of Jerusalem, conveyed with such honeyed heart-breaking simplicity, in Byrd’s Ne Irascaris, Domine. Haunting too is the hushed restraint of Robert White’s Compline hymn. Weavers of rich and plangent aural tapestries, the Gesualdo Six meld style and substance with beguiling sure-footedness. An auspicious debut.