Harvey conducts Gibbons

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COMPOSERS: Gibbons
LABELS: Signum Records
ALBUM TITLE: In Chains of Gold
WORKS: Complete Consort Anthems
PERFORMER: Fretwork; His Majesty Sagbutts & Cornetts; Magdalena Consort/Peter Harvey
CATALOGUE NO: SIGCD511

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When composer Thomas Morley urged performers to draw listeners ‘in chains of gold’, he might well have been reviewing this recording. Under the direction of Peter Harvey, the synergy of the Magdalena Consort, Fretwork and His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts, unveils Orlando Gibbons’s Consort Anthems and In Nomines in all their pious glory and passionate devotion.

Prompted by a surviving manuscript, the multidimensional Consort Anthems celebrate specific events or services commissioned either for private worship, or for the Royal Chapels of Greenwich, Whitehall, and Hampton Court. Gibbons revels in the genre, blending voices and instruments as readily as the text intermingles praise for heavenly and earthly kings. Charles Daniels sets an experienced tone, leading a stellar team of high tenors who, at the high pitch of A=466, maintain the original inner parts without the need for female or male altos. This high pitch and vocal distribution, mirrored in the viols (which include original instruments of the period), is a telling case of historical description – ‘rare, diffused and aery’ – prompting new sonorities. And it works. Fretwork shine in the In Nomines, relishing exchanges steeped with the references to Taverner, Ferrabosco and Bull. Highlights in the hugely-varied anthems abound, from the sumptuous sound of Blessed are all they – transcending its scandalous backstory – to the delightful evocations of dancing in Do Not Repine and the wistful sheen of mystery in We Praise thee, O Father – these performances glimmer with all the yearning, devoutness, and splendour of the age. 

Hannah French