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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hungry for more, 29 Mar. 2011
By 
E. L. Wisty "World Domination League" (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is my first experience of the ensemble Henry's Eight, and it certainly won't be my last. They blend superbly, though I may remark that the countertenors are particularly delightful.

On display here are some particularly stunning works by Gombert. The standout tracks are the first and the last, respectively a richly textured 8 voice isolated Credo (the booklet notes that it is not unusual to find independent settings, so "no need to search for lost movements of a complete mass") and the 8 voice motet "Lugebat David Absalon", a contrafactum of two other chansons.

The accompanying booklet contains some brief notes in English, French & German, plus the Latin sung texts with English translation.

Full programme:
Credo
Gradual for Easter Day: Haec dies quam fecit Dominus
Haec dies quam fecit dominus
Qui colis Ausoniam
Marian antiphon: Salve Regina
Salve Regina (Diversi diversa orant)
O beata Maria
Vae, vae, Babylon
Nunc dimittis antiphon: Media vita in morte sumus
Media vita in morte sumus
Lugebat David Absalon
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pieces like seamless tapestries!, 14 Dec. 2011
By 
Duncan R. McKeown "Mozartian" (Norwich, Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This is really a special disc! The music of Gombert I had not heard before, but had read about...described in a Gramophone review as a kind of amalgam of Josquin and Ockeghem. Since I greatly admire both these composers, curiosity got the better of me; I had to hear some of this music! I can see now (or rather hear!) what that reviewer meant.
The seamless flow of music, with few cadences, reminds one of Ockeghem; but the combination of this and the smooth flow of expertly blended imitation in the parts (Josquin's influence...probably Gombert's teacher) creates a very distinctive new musical sound-world, unlike either of the older masters. These works are like very rich tapestries, especially sung with these beautifully silky voices. I usually prefer female voices in this repetoire, but I don't think I have ever heard such good counter-tenors...they could convert me to the historically correct approach! Note to myself: must listen to more Gombert...and more of Henry's Eight!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liquid velvet in music, 26 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Gombert: Church Music (Audio CD)
Henry's Eight are a superb ensemble. Their other Gombert disk as well as their Robert White and Lassus pentitential psalms equally deserve attention. The phrasing is sublime and feel for this kind of rich polyphony deeply sensuous. It is also good to hear choirs with counter-tenors on the top lines. The blend of the voices is very fine indeed. It would be good to hear more by them. The 2 Gombert disks and the White are without doubt their best. The music of Gombert also has its own distinct personality, conveying a sense of remorse and sadness (which reflect dramatic events in his own life) significantly transcending the merely liturgical.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Liquid velvet in music, 23 Feb. 2008
Henry's Eight are a superb ensemble. Their other Gombert disk as well as their Robert White and Lassus pentitential psalms equally deserve attention. The phrasing is sublime and feel for this kind of rich polyphony deeply sensuous. It is also good to hear choirs with counter-tenors on the top lines. The blend of the voices is very fine indeed. It would be good to hear more by them. The 2 Gombert disks and the White are without doubt their best. The music of Gombert also has its own distinct personality, conveying a sense of remorse and sadness (which reflect dramatic events in his own life) significantly transcending the merely liturgical.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional craftsmanship., 7 Jan. 2015
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This review is from: Gombert: Church Music (Audio CD)
Gomberts' compositional skill is astounding. The polyphony is dense, intricate, controlled with masterful use of imitation and dissonance. As a contemporary Hermann Fick said "he avoids rests" meaning the music flows seamlessly. The motet "Salve Regina" with four different melodies sung simultaneously is a masterpiece.
To master such complex music requires singers of exceptional skill. Henry"s Eight give a superlative performance with perfect balance between the lower voices (Gombert often favoured low scoring highlighting the sombre text in works such as "Vae Vae Babylon") and the excellent counter tenors.
From a personal point of view I found this music appealed to me more "intellectually" than "emotionally". I marvelled at the compositional genius but did not find the sheer beauty of works such as Jean Mouton's "Nasciens Mater" or Victoria's Requiem for example - an exception is the wonderful "Media Vita in Morte Sumus".
Nevertheless a five star composer performed by fibe star singers.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gombert the Great, 14 Nov. 2012
By 
A. Cooper "él de los castillos" (Wembley, near the stadium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Gombert: Church Music (Audio CD)
I cannot upstage the recent expert review of Adriano Hundhausen posted on American Amazon, which does a better job of promoting the music than the booklet that accompanies this CD (Amazon B000BOIWV4). The cover picture is a painting by Memling, who died in 1494. It is hardly relevant: the notes can’t decide whether Gombert, a Walloon, was born c. 1495, or c. 1500, and Memling was German anyway. For once, at least, they don’t offer redundant anecdote mingled with bits of journal article. They make the comparison with the music of Josquin, rather than any of Gombert’s contemporaries (another reviewer, however, likens his music to that of Okeghem). The choir, “Henry’s Eight”, consists, logically, of 8 singers (the group photograph only shows 7). Notes are given in English, French and German. Why not in Spanish? A request at the end says: “Si este disco le ha gustado y desea recibir un catálogo… escriba a Hyperion Records Ltd….” (and you will receive a catalogue also only in English, French and German! Doesn’t Hyperion have a single intelligent marketing person?).
As this reviewer says, Gombert’s music has been compared unfavourably with that of the equally outstanding Obrecht (he doesn’t agree, of course). He adds that Gombert can be considered the Beethoven of his age. Another reviewer has likened him to his contemporaries Brumel and Pierre de la Rue, and to Bruckner (the Bruckner of the 8th symphony, I suspect). Yet another hedges his bets by finding him inferior to Brumel, and to Palestrina and Victoria, and then credits the performers on this disc for correcting his judgement. There are clearly two questions of criteria here that most listeners will have to resolve: what to compare his music with, and how it should be performed. I think you have to like something for the right reasons, not just, in music, because it sounds nice.
My starting point was the music of two composers that have not entered into this discussion, Alexander Agricola (a generation earlier: try Amazon B000026BUG, or B0002K71BO), and Clement “the unpapal” (Amazon B0049BX0GW). What you will find is a sense of structure, combined with an ability to develop and sustain ideas. This distinguishes the great from the also-rans in almost any period, and in practically any field of creativity. Gombert has it as well. In this respect, the comparison with Beethoven is totally apt, if anachronistic.
The question of performance is much more esoteric. Practically none of the music we revere today reached us in the form which we now regard as right, yet we accept it. Equally, great music seems amenable to endless variations in performance practice, often verging on caricature. Recently I have enjoyed Vivaldi’s “4 Seasons” played by a Japanese koto orchestra, and the last chorus of Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” performed by a brass septet. So why can’t Gombert take a bit of this? In fact, it will probably never happen. There have been two stages in refining his oeuvre: first the realisation that the chorus has to be one voice to a part (a virtual revolution in singing technique has had to take place to allow this), and secondly the exact re-creation of Gombert’s harmonic intentions, in particular the discords known as “false relations”, or “musica ficta” where, basically, you can’t tell, momentarily, whether a major or minor key is indicated. For me, this is part of the slow transition from modal harmony (“tonalité ancienne”) to tonal harmony (experts can correct me if I’ve got it wrong) so, historically, the “false relations” have to be there, and the performance has to make them sound musical to the listener. This is partly a question of exact intonation, very difficult at the baritone centred pitch of which Gombert is a master. With multiple voices it doesn’t work. “Henry’s Eight” have it to perfection.
Their other outstanding merit is their control of crescendo and diminuendo to give the stubborn Latin phrases an emotional content. Other groups eschew this, but without it the music tends to be shapeless and even lacking in the structure which I think is essential.
Bravo!
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