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TRAD. arr. Karl JENKINS (b.1944) Gaudete [1:43]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924) arr. Alexander L’ESTRANGE Après un rêve [3:25]
Sir John TAVENER (b.1944) The Lamb [3:54]
TRAD. Gaudete (a cappella) [1:45]
PACHELBEL (1653-1706) arr. L’ESTRANGE Canon [4:46]
Sir John TAVENER (extract) Mother and Child [4:37]
Steve REICH (b.1936) Clapping Music [5:33]
Tenebrae: Grace Davidson, Julia Doyle (sopranos), Anna Stephany, Alexander L’Estrange (altos), Christopher Watson, Nigel Short, Andrew Busher, John Bunghard (tenors), Gabriel Crouch, Matthew Brook (baritones), Adrian Peacock, David Porter Thomas (basses)/Nigel Short, Director, with Jody Jenkins (percussion)
Recorded at St. Michael’s Church Highgate, 12-13 May 2004
SIGNUM CLASSICS SIG CD 050 [25:45] [Single]

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As you can see, this is a very short disc. It seems to be intended as something of a promotional issue for Tenebrae, to indicate the range of this remarkable group; in that it is highly successful.

There are two versions of the ‘title-track’, the anonymous 16th century carol or motet Gaudete. The first probably has more aural impact and popular appeal, with its noisy percussion. The second on track 4 – exactly the same minus the percussion – is more musically satisfying, and enables one to appreciate the rhythmic attack of the ensemble.

The director, Nigel Short, is possibly best known for his work with the Kings Singers as one of their tenors. He sings as well as directs, and has assembled a group who not only possess beautiful voices but are adept in achieving a perfect blend. Track 2 contains a really lovely arrangement of Fauré’s most famous song Après un rêve. This version – quite simple, with the soprano singing the melody against ‘doo-doo’ type accompaniment in the other voices – is by one of the group’s altos, Alexander L’Estrange, who has also provided the stunning version of the Pachelbel Canon on track 5. I usually loathe this piece, but confess this had me totally entranced – I think we’ll probably hear a lot of this track one way or another over the coming months.

The last two items are, firstly, an extract from Tavener’s Mother and Child, written specifically for Tenebrae (there is also a fine performance of the same composer’s The Lamb on track 3) and Steve Reich’s Clapping Music. ‘A very special kind of applause’ is how this cunning piece is described on the Tenebrae web-site. True – but does it work on disc, being such a very visual piece? Not convinced, though the booklet notes make a valiant attempt at explaining the way it’s put together.

‘Passion and Precision’ is Tenebrae’s motto – and they amply live up to it here. This disc is an ideal way to sample this remarkable ensemble’s stylistic range and musical qualities. All is captured in a very fine recording, demonstrating the best of modern production techniques.

Gwyn Parry-Jones

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