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Tenebrae Responsories – Feria Quinta

The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park (Hyperion)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Tenebrae Responsories – Feria Quinta
Judith Bingham: Watch with me; Gesualdo: Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday; Tallis: Lamentations of Jeremiah I & II; Joanna Ward: Christus factus est
The Gesualdo Six/Owain Park
Hyperion CDA68348   69:49 mins


The half-dozen male singers of Gesualdo Six, under the alert and sensitive direction of Owain Park, have already produced a quartet of first-rate recordings. This one, exploring the crepuscular soundworld of the Tenebrae services for Holy Week, is equally compelling.

To highlight the ensemble’s versatility, the programme juxtaposes English and Italian, Renaissance and works of our own time: Tallis’s Lamentations of Jeremiah give way to Judith Bingham’s Watch with me, whose text in turn pre-empts Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday. Specially commissioned to end the programme is Joanna Ward’s chilling Christus factus est (a gradual for Maundy Thursday) whose floating melodies fragment into eerie murmurings.

As one might expect, the musical canvas is predominantly dark hued – like a late Rembrandt – though lighter brushstrokes illuminate the shadows and the sound is infinitely variegated: sonorous, velvety, plangent, luminous. Words and polyphonic strands are lucid, and while The Gesualdo Six can build up intense and resonant climaxes, their voices are never forced.

Their practice of performing in a circular formation allows the singers to create the most intimate of  ‘sacred conversations’: they declaim and whisper, exalt and despair – always in alert response to the words. In sum, these are accounts of haunting beauty – warmly recommended.

Kate Bolton-Porciatti

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