I don't have an SACD player so I'm referring to the CD layer of this Hybrid SACD.
The recording seems to me to be beyond criticism and it's very hard to understand why another reviewer found it unsatisfactory. The recording venue is a church, the perfect setting for these works. I have several CDs recorded in churches which include various unwelcome additions: traffic noise; buzzing from transformers or fluorescent lighting; echoing footsteps; doors being opened or closed; feedback from the recording equipment which would be masked or suppressed in studio environments but can be conspicuous in a stone chamber. This recording has none of those defects. It offers a brilliant rendition of the performances with the distinctive spaciousness, reverberations and long decays of notes that the composer was writing for.
This is the kind of recording so good that it both satisfies and also whets the appetite, leaving me wondering how good this could get if I had a SACD player and multi channel playback. Well done Harmonia Mundi.
As for the works and performances I'm no expert, just an enthusiastic listener who loves the music of English composers such as (Orlando) Gibbons, Tomkins, Byrd, Blow, Purcell etc. In the product description Richard Egarr describes Christopher Gibbons as the "missing link between the pre-Commonwealth world of Williams Lawes and the Restoration baroquerie of Henry Purcell". I doubt anyone could make a better succinct description. This music absolutely stands on its own merits but it also brings sense to what had previously seemed to be an anomalous step change in the evolution of English music.
I think this is a fantastic CD and I'm enjoying it every time I listen. The Guardian reviewer felt that the choral works were the outstanding pieces while The Classical Music Magazine's reviewer identified some of the instrumental pieces as the highlights. I agree with them both!
I hope Mr Egarr has some other rediscovered works of Christopher Gibbons in his vault, ready to be recorded and published. More please!