COMPOSERS: Palestrina,Venosa,Victoria & White
WORKS: Vocal works by Palestrina, Venosa, Victoria & White
PERFORMER: Nordic Voices
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0763
The services of Holy Week – the week before Easter – are dramatic. Gradually the candles in the churches are extinguished, Christ’s crucifixion is remembered and, over three days, the incredibly harrowing Lamentations of Jeremiah are sung. These deeply expressive texts (together with related words from the same services) have attracted many composers, but here we have four of the greatest.
Victoria’s wonderful settings first appeared in 1585. Nordic Voices take his precarious and adventurous lines in their stride, and they use dynamic shading to great effect. Their presentation of the ‘Teth’ section is incredibly quiet and controlled, and we seem to be led into the soul of the music itself. Different challenges are presented by Gesualdo’s unusual harmonies and his erratically agile imitations. The harmonies are fine, but the tumbling melodies heard at the words ‘vos fugam’ in Responsorium II are less than neat.
The big surprise on this disc is the astonishingly accomplished music by the English composer Robert White who worked at Westminster Abbey in the 1570s. Here musical architecture is everything. Nordic Voices wisely underplay the local false relations of the harmonies, but some superb passing details remain, such as the single dark, empty moment of desolate grief at ‘dolor meus’.
A couple of momentary distortions in the sound are noticeable, but the overall effect is warm, consistent and moving. Anthony Pryer