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Lux aeterna (The Gesualdo Six)

Samuel Mitchell (narrator); The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park (Hyperion)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Lux aeterna
Works by Byrd, N Cox, Donna McKevitt, C Morales, Purcell, Skempton, Tallis, Tavener et al
Samuel Mitchell (narrator); The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park
Hyperion CDA68388   64:50 mins

This affecting collection contains music for mourning and remembrance. It encompasses not only strictly liturgical items (such as those from requiem services by Morales and Byrd) but also memorials of private devotion and public history (as in Joanna Marsh’s setting of a poem in honour of Stephen Bence’s wife, or Douglas Guest’s music for the famous words on Remembrance Sunday: ‘They shall not grow old’).

The great experience and skill of these singers provide perfect tuning in pieces such as Tallis’s In ieiunio (sung at low pitch) and superb phrasal breathing (especially in Morales’s Parce mihi). But the ‘intensity landscape’ in these earlier pieces is sometimes oddly featureless, and even the agonisingly expressive harmonic false relations in Byrd’s Peccatem me are underplayed. By contrast modern works – such as Neil Cox’s antiphon, ‘Keep me as an apple of thine eye’ – are alive with edgy vocal sonorities. Probably the most original piece is Owain Park’s In Parenthesis based on selected snippets from an epic narrative of that name by David Jones (TS Eliot called it the greatest poem of World War I). Park eerily conjures up the fleeting thoughts, actions and half remembered songs passing through the minds of the soldiers.

Anthony Pryer

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