Tomkins: When David heard; add works

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Tomkins
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: When David heard; add works
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0680
Strangely, Tomkins’s first published collection has never been recorded complete before. Indeed, of the 26 madrigals and anthems here, 16 are not otherwise available on disc – reason alone to welcome this delightful recording.

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For their ‘Theatre of Music’, flamboyantly staged presentations of Italian madrigal-comedies, Spanish ensaladas and the like, I Fagiolini have worked up an exceptional repertoire of expressive qualities – vocal colour, dynamic range and articulation. They do nothing by halves here, either: in the bittersweet harmonies of lament, in the stark contrast of ‘laughs’ and ‘weeps’ or, a treat left to the very end of the disc, the blind wanderings of ‘a wretch tormented’. Impressive among familiar pieces is ‘When David heard’, surely one of the most moving cries of despair ever to come from an English madrigalist. Half-a-dozen three-part songs, new to the CD catalogue and to me, are exquisite miniatures sung here with endearing simplicity.

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I Fagiolini generate such verve in their fastest singing that sonorities don’t always have time to gel – and their huge dynamic climaxes briefly test recording levels. In denser textures, where one bass supports five other voices, balance is a touch top-heavy. But you won’t find more heartfelt singing of unfamiliar and lovely music than this. George Pratt