Madrigals and motets by Byrd, Gesualdo, Gibbons, Marenzio, Nenna, Tudino, Wilbye, et al
Les Cris de Paris/Geoffroy Jourdain
Harmonia Mundi HMM 902298 67:11 mins
Director Geoffroy Jourdain describes this disc as the ‘log book of a nocturnal journey’. His vocal consort and instrumentalists decamped to a Cistercian monastery in the South of France where every night for a week they immersed themselves in the deep embrace of musical melancholia – a melancholia forged on the cusp of the 17th century, at once sacred and secular, English and Italian. Anguished Petrarch vies with the woeful despair of the Tenebrae Responsories, Elizabethan poetic angst encounters the breast-beating of Latin penitential motets. And Jourdain’s nocturnal sifting hasn’t just fingered the prime suspects. Cesare Tudino (reimagined for viols), Pomponio Nenna and Luzzasco Luzzaschi lend their own dark thoughts to a line-up including Gesualdo, Byrd and Wilbye.
Indeed the latter’s exquisite ‘Draw on Sweet Night’ and Byrd’s ‘Come to me grief forever’ ensure that the English school bags the first and last word. The results are a little uneven however. Some voices sit more comfortably in the ensemble than others; the opening of Tomkins’s ‘Too much I once lamented’ isn’t the only example of wobbly entries; and Wilbye’s stealthy layering of emotion is rather glossed over. But with serpent and soft-grained cornet mute added to a trio of viols, the instrumental interludes seduce even as they mourn.