Geualdo • Victoria

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COMPOSERS: Geualdo; Victoria
ALBUM TITLE: Geualdo • Victoria
WORKS: Geualdo: Responsaries of the Office of Tenebrae for Holy Saturday; Miserere; Victoria: Lamentations for Holy Saturday
PERFORMER: Tenebrae/Nigel Short


The year 1611 saw the publication of Gesualdo’s fifth and sixth Books of madrigals as well as his last collection of sacred motets, which were written for Holy Week, depicting in sound the story of Christ’s betrayal, death and burial. Church candles are gradually extinguished in these services eventually leading to Tenebrae (darkness), so this is the Tenebrae ensemble singing the Responsories associated with the Tenebrae period. There have been several fine recordings of these items, notably from the Tallis Scholars and the Hilliard Ensemble, but this one excels, partly because it gets exactly right the balance between the mannered, madrigalesque features of the music and the eerie drama and morbidity of the religious story. The singing ranges from the nimble (as the righteous scurry away in Ecce quomodo), to the declamatory (at the word ‘Salvator’ in Jerusalem, surge), to the magically ethereal (at the ending of O vos omnes).

Other skills are evident, too, in Victoria’s 1585 Lamentations for Holy Saturday (again, much recorded). There are few opportunities for word painting or narrative drama in these texts, but Nigel Short’s superb musical sensitivity to phrasing and texture illuminates everything. In Lectio, the endless dovetailing of the musical lines, all within an overall architectural vision, is exquisitely sustained, and in Lectio 3, the abstract webs of sound evoke a supplicatory aura from the mundane list of needy persons, all in reverberant yet clear acoustics.


Anthony Pryer