Tenebrae / Nigel Short

Gesualdo & Victoria

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Carlo Gesualdo's Tenebrae Responsories don't get nearly the performances that his harmonically bizarre late madrigals do, and that's a shame. They're definitely cut from the same cloth, and the Holy Week subject matter only makes the tortured effect more intense. They do pose interpretive challenges: plunging into the music with madrigalian subjectivity runs the risk of seeming disrespectful to the texts, but a pure cathedral sound ignores the main structural features of the music. The adult, mixed-gender 16-voice group Tenebrae under Nigel Short tends toward the latter pole, and it's possible to bring more of the claustrophobic quality of Gesualdo's late music to a performance than these singers do here. In general, however, this is a strong outing from Deutsche Grammophon's revived Archiv early music imprint. Short leads singers in a performance that's technically impressive yet doesn't lose sight of what the music is about. He accentuates dissonance by having his sopranos introduce some texture into the music at key moments, with a very appealing effect. The parallel set of Lamentations for Holy Saturday by Tomás Luis de Victoria is an inspired programming choice, for its much soberer language provides the perfect foil for Gesualdo and lets you hear exactly how the choir is interacting with the music. London's Parish Church of St. Alban the Martyr provides a fine acoustic environment for all this, and the result is an attractive recording of some music that isn't as well known as it ought it be.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Responsoria et alia ad Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae spectantia
1 3:54
2 3:42
3 5:01
4 3:55
5 4:13
6 6:02
7 2:28
8 3:55
9 6:46
10 8:46
Officium Hebdomadae Sanctae
11 5:51
12 4:58
13 7:52
blue highlight denotes track pick