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GRAMOPHONE (10/2022)
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Reviewer :
Ivan Moody

As always with The Gesualdo Six, the thing that strikes one most forcibly on first listening is the ensemble’s extraordinary vocal blend. This makes pieces that employ homophony to a greater or lesser extent particularly effective – Neil Cox’s Keep me as the apple of an eye, the opening track, provides a perfect example but Renaissance repertoire such as Tallis’s In ieiunio et fletu and Morales’s Parce mihi also benefit hugely from this remarkable precision.

Precision is also something highly necessary in the performance of Howard Skempton’s choral music. As Owain Park points out in his booklet note, Skempton’s compositional procedures in And there was war in heaven have something in common with Pärt’s tintinnabuli technique, though the two composers could never be mistaken for each other. And precision would count for nothing were there not also a feeling for line. Tavener’s Funeral Ikos is a genuine test of this ability: while even some good recordings of the work give the impression of being more interested in the harmonic scheme than in the relationship of text and melody, that is certainly not the case here. That same quality is more than perceptible in Byrd’s Peccantem me quotidie, possibly the most affecting track on the album.

The collection, centring on the theme of grief, is extremely well organised in terms of both contrast and similarity (of style and period), and I do recommend listening to it from beginning to end. Richard Rodney Bennett’s sumptuous A Good-Night provides a wholly appropriate finale to this thought-provoking journey.


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