10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 15 March 2013
This is a very important issue. Seventeenth century church music was published not in score form, but as part books, one book to each part. Gesualdo's Sacrae Cantiones - Liber Secondus in 6 and 7 parts has come down to us with two entire parts missing. In an incredible piece of scholarship, James Wood has analysed Gesualdo's sacred music style and supplied convincing lines for the missing parts. This must have been incredibly difficult. It was not simply a matter of filling in appropriate harmony, but of re-composing contrapuntal lines that exactly fit in with the others. James Wood, in a fascinating article on the work involved in the accompanying booklet rightly describes it as having been like a massive crossword puzzle.
Now the Liber Secundus can take its place alongside the first book of Sacrae Cantiones in 5 parts and the Responsoria. In other words, a third of Gesualdo's religious music has been made performable. Mature music published in the last ten years of the composer's life. It is incredibly exciting to be able to hear this wonderful music for the first time.
James Wood himself directs the first recorded performance of this important music with the Vocalconsort Berlin. The virtues are superb pitching - such chromatic music is immensely difficult - an expressive flexibility that highlights the words, and an incredibly clean acoustic that keeps the thick textures clear.
A word of caution. Wood has devised a programme book-ended by two canticles from the Responsaria, and collecting the motets into groups around themes, "Prayers for Salvation", "Despair and Weeping" "Peace and Hope" etc. However the motets were not written to be heard one after the other. Some variation is provided by casting the 6 part motets with a single voice to a part (as opposed to the full compliment of 16 voices for the 7 part motets) but listening to the 22 numbers on the cd back-to-back may not be the best way to hear the music.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a very good disc of some of Gesualdo's sacred works, reconstructed by James Wood from the parts which have survived. It's a fascinating and very lovely disc.
Gesualdo's music is famously idiosyncratic, with liberal use of chromaticism and highly unusual contrapuntal effects. This has made some of his recordings rather a struggle for me; The Tallis Scholars' recording of his Tenebrae Responsories is just about the only disc of theirs which I can't play with unalloyed pleasure, for example. The music here is considerably less extreme and the chromatic effects add a genuine frisson of excitement rather than just make it seem plain bonkers as some of his other music does to me. I am not musician enough to know whether this is intrinsic to Gesualdo's music or due to James Wood's more gentle reconstruction, but he is a very considerable scholar (as is the great Andrew Parrott, whose "very great help and advice" Wood acknowledges) so I am very willing to accept this as a good approximation to Gesualdo himself.
The effect in the recording is very pleasing. The music is adventurous while remaining very beautiful and the performances are excellent throughout. They are very well balanced with a good blend but with every part distinctly audible. Their technical excellence is plain as they make the challenges of this music seem simple, and they bring real meaning to the texts. It is a pleasure to listen to.
The recorded sound is excellent and the booklet is very attractively presented with very interesting notes by James Wood and full texts and translations. This is an excellent disc all round and very warmly recommended.
1 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 2 March 2013
Andrew Clements in the Guardian on March 1st gave it 5 stars:
I listened to a few of the mp3 sample tracks on Amazon and found the acoustic a bit flat - a matter of taste I guess, and sound a bit harsh, but that may be because of the limitations of streaming. Have added it to my wish list nevertheless!