Gesualdo: Tenebrae Responses for Good Friday

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COMPOSERS: Gesualdo
LABELS: Sony
WORKS: Tenebrae Responses for Good Friday
PERFORMER: Taverner Choir/Andrew Parrott
CATALOGUE NO: SK 62977
Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responses for Good Friday, written in 1611, towards the end of his life, represent an intimate and personal reflection on the Crucifixion story. In these pieces, the composer applied the rich textures and piquant harmonies familiar from his madrigals in a vivid narration of Christ’s Passion. Ensemble a Sei Voci’s 1982 recording offers a highly charged account of the Responses, shorn of their liturgical context. This new release presents the same music together with the appropriate plainsong psalms and antiphons.

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Parrott’s singers – their vibrant tone beautifully illuminated by clear and atmospheric acoustical presence – are ever alert to Gesualdo’s descriptive musical delineation of the text. Their broadly phrased and expressively direct approach allows the drama to unfold simply and naturally. The agonising sense of betrayal in ‘Omnes amici mei’ and violent rending of the temple veil in ‘Velum templi’ reaches a suitably dark and poignant climax in ‘Tenebrae factae sunt’ (the emotional heart of the work). The inconsolable grief in ‘Caligaverunt oculi mei’ at the end completes this moving illustration of Gesualdo’s spiritual vision.

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With evocative plainsong singing and exquisitely poised ensemble in the polyphony, this version of Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responses for Good Friday is sure to become a best-seller. Nicholas Rast