on 22 February 2010
Gesualdo's music for tenebrae is some of the most outrageous and arresting music from the Renaissance, and holds it own against the 20th century avant-garde. Sadly, this recording doesn't capture that.
From technical point of view, what makes this music so stunning are the extraordinary harmonic shifts and bizarre intervals, all which serve to accentuate the text. Unfortunately, less than optimum intonation, differing approaches to vibrato, and in some cases, just plain clumsy ensemble, serve to obscure rather than reveal and accentuate the text and the meaning.
The third disc contains the responsoria for Holy Saturday which - judging from a very unscientific skim of Google - seem to be better known and more recorded, is the least disappointing.
Both The Tallis Scholars and Collegium Vocale do better choral recordings, and for a one-to-a-part, I'd recommend the Hilliard Ensemble.
on 5 June 2012
If you are looking for a technically impeccable reading of Gesualdo's great music, you may do better to go for the Tallis Scholars' or Hilliard Ensemble's detached (and slightly boring) versions. A Sei Voci, on the other hand, takes risks, and the result is, on these as well as many other disks, spellbinding interpretations that one keeps coming back to time and again. Here they do not only give us the amazing sometimes nearly a-tonal language of Gesualdo within a context of polyhphonic procedures that were already a bit old-fashioned at the time, but also the passion and anguish the music can express when sung this way. You won't hear the angelic choirs so many people seem to look for in Renaissance music, but Gesualdo's fear of judgement, death, and maybe sometimes his hope of forgiveness.
on 5 June 2012
I must add a review to praise these excellent and moving versions of the Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday by this French group. I have their excellent box of Josquin's masses, which in my opinion have not been equalled. I adore the version of these works by the Tallis Scholars but have to agree with the recent reviewer that as in many Hilliard Ensemble recorded performances, they sound uninvolved and yes a bit boring. I have owned the Hilliard's ECM set since these came out in the mid-1990's and whilst there is a lot to admire in that group's perfect intonation I more often return to these performance, also well recorded and at bargain price on this Warner Apex twofer incarnation. No need to hesitate.