Gesualdo

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Gesualdo
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Gesualda: Responsoria
WORKS: Responsoria
PERFORMER: La Campagnia del Madrigale
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 922803

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These 27 responsories from the services on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday reflect upon the most dramatic events of Christ’s life: his betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Few composers have equalled Gesualdo’s insight into the anguish of the events, nor the care with which his minute musical details make vivid their depiction. There are two rival complete recordings: the polished but lapidary version from the Hilliard Ensemble (ECM New Series); and Philippe Herreweghe’s account (on the Phi label), which tends to equate musical meandering with emotional empathy.

This new recording by La Compagnia del Madrigale surpasses all others. The singers not only reveal the depths of Gesualdo’s emotional understanding, but also his formal, harmonic and textural control, as well as his ability to create music with tremendous performance potential. They negotiate the madrigal-style word-painting with deftness and panache (especially in Tristus et Animus and Una hora), displaying Gesualdo’s harmonic twists with breathtaking precision (as in the opening chords of Eram quasi agnus and the modulations of Aestimatus). They also take every opportunity for performance variation (in the repeat of the Respond in Ecce vidimus) and are sensitive to all kinds of emotional colour, from the anguish of Velum templum to the kaleidoscopic moods of Caligaverunt oculi – effects made possible by a virtuosic control of musical dynamics. La Compagnia del Madrigale are sensitive to every word of the text as well as to every note of the music. All in all, this is a superb recital.

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Anthony Pryer