Paul McCreesh / Gabrieli Consort

A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation

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This 2012 release, A Song of Farewell: Music of Mourning & Consolation, which is made up of British choral works spanning more than 450 years, marks the 30th anniversary Paul McCreesh's founding of the Gabrieli Consort & Players. The Consort sings with an absolutely ravishing sound; almost all of this music is quiet, reflective, and reverently paced and the group brings to it a velvety legato that is practically breathtaking. The singing sounds effortlessly disciplined, yet each line glows with spontaneity. The small details, such as the remarkable precision of attacks and releases, don't draw attention to themselves, but the accumulation of so many felicities elevate the performances to a level rarely encountered even in the finest choral ensemble. McCreesh's leadership is certainly responsible for the singers' unanimity of phrasing and the impression they give of breathing as a single organism. He draws out performances that sound passionately and authentically felt. In the program notes, McCreesh cites the difficulty modern secular concert performers have when engaging with the devout faith expressed in the ancient texts and in the music, most of which was written for liturgical use, but he and the singers succeed in giving honest voice to a sadness and hope that are universally understood. The centerpiece of the album is the intensely personal Howells Requiem. The remaining works, whether they come from the Renaissance or the 20th century, are beautifully reflective of themes of loss and the expectation of redemption. The sound is immaculate, warmly realistic, and ideally resonant. Highly recommended.

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