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Carlo GESUALDO (C. 1560-1613)
Tenebrae - Responses for Good Friday (Responsoria, 1611)
In I. Nocturno [21:30]
In II. Nocturno [24:07]
In III. Nocturno [21:39]
Taverner Consort and Choir/Andrew Parrott
rec. 23-25 October 1996, St. Bartholomew’s Church, Orford, Suffolk
AVIE AV2305 [67:16]

This is a re-release of a Sony Classics title which appeared in 2000, and was described as having a “modern sensuality you may not automatically associate with the works of this era” by Rob Barnett (see review). This is certainly a recording which has stood the test of time, and which can stand amongst the best in this remarkable repertoire.
 
It will be a matter of taste as to whether this is an advantage or disadvantage, but Andrew Parrott’s performances stand apart in their inclusion of the antipons and lectios which surround the responsoria which are the source of Gesualdo’s strikingly, indeed radically expressive music. This means that there is a certain amount of religious hanging about before you get to the good bits, but does mean you hear Gesualdo’s compositions in a relatively realistic context. Other than this, these are performances which have a much greater intensity than the rather relaxed sounding Tallis Scholars on Gimell. If you are looking for the cleanest of choral sounds then Nigel Short directing Tenebrae on the Archiv label is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but here again you have the impression of voices well within their comfort zone. What I like about Parrott and the Taverner Consort is the drama inherent in all-male, all-adult voices which you sense are being pushed and manipulated by the extremes of the music. Without the distinctive David James topping which characterises the Hilliard Ensemble, this in some ways is more comparable with their ECM set, which to my mind remains one of the best available.
 
Expressive vibrato is used judiciously in these performances, and with an organic sense of phrasing, sensitive dynamics and pretty good clarity of delivery when it comes to text, this is a fine recording with which I can live quite happily. Gesualdo’s remarkably anguished harmonies are served very well indeed. All texts are given in Latin and English in the booklet.
 
Dominy Clements
 




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