COMPOSERS: Christopher Gibbons
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Gibbons
WORKS: Fantasy-Suite in F; Not unto ua, O Lord; Fantasia; The Lord said unto my Lord
PERFORMER: Academy of Ancient Music & Chorus/Richard Egarr
CATALOGUE NO: HMU807551
This recording premieres both Christopher Gibbons’s music and the Choir of the Academy of Ancient Music. And director Richard Egarr triumphantly shows why Christopher Gibbons, son of Orlando, ranks among England’s greatest composers.
Whether writing for organ, strings, choir or solo voices, the elegance of Gibbons’s melodies strikes the ear immediately. Egarr’s delivery of the organ voluntaries is always perfectly paced, either hastening forward or relaxing to draw breath as appropriate. The Voluntary for ye Duble Organ, with its crunchy suspensions – deftly foregrounded by Egarr on a six-stop continuo organ – is particularly eloquent. Equally gorgeous are the string fantasias accompanied by organ. Textures build, melt, and transform as the mood moves from elegiac to ebullient. Violinists Pavlo Beznosiuk and Rodolfo Richter, in a delicately entwined interpretation, ruffle melodic surfaces in all the right places.
The choir is slightly disappointing. Disciplined and flexible, the vocalists clearly transmit the text but don’t always express it. Homophony tends to clunkiness and phrase shapes are overworked, draining Gibbons’s gestures of vitality. In the alto section, vibrato is sometimes intrusive. Soloists drawn from the choir are sturdy but unimaginative, especially in O bone Jesu, where the nimble exchanges fail to climax satisfactorily. Offsetting this, however, are the disc’s superb production values.