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GRAMOPHONE (04/2013)
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Harmonia Mundi 

 Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020212325 (ID294)

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Appréciation d'ensemble / Overall evaluation :

Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Reconstructed sacred songs add to the Gesualdo catalogue

Part-books were the standard method of printing polyphony in the Renaissance: each publication constituted a set, usually with one voice per book. The risk is that if one of these books goes missing, the pieces of the collection are incomplete. This is what happened to Gesualdo’s second book of motets (‘sacred songs’), published in 1603: the only surviving copy is missing two books, including the bass.

It’s well known that Stravinsky had a go at supplying the missing voices for three of these motets but as far as I know the composer and musicologist James Wood is the first to complete and bring the whole set to the recording studio.

It’s not my intention here to comment on the quality of the reconstructions, though to the ear it sounds very convincing. Most of these motets are constructed along similar, compact lines,  and what they lack in contrast they make up for in incident. Gesualdo favours strikingly intervallic opening gestures and conclusions that similarly imprint themselves on the ear. Seekers after his trademark chromaticism will find it, but attenuated, the emphasis being on imitative points. The Vocalconsort Berlin do him proud, treating some pieces chorally and other with soloists; like the motets themselves, their interpretation stays within certain confines, which allows them to negotiate all but the most demanding situations with confidence. There may be bolder, more striking interpretations to come (just as there will be other reconstructions) but meanwhile, who could resist the opportunity to hear some ‘new’ Gesualdo?

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