Ex Cathedra Consort / Jeffrey Skidmore

Giovanni Gabrieli: Sacred Symphonies

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Admirers of Giovanni Gabrieli's magnificent polychoral works will eagerly seek out this Hyperion release, because all the right elements for a great recording come together here. The program of large-scale motets of up to 17 parts, composed for cori spezzati (literally, "fragmented choirs") and brass instruments, offers some of Gabrieli's most inspired music, and the excitement of the antiphonal exchanges couldn't be greater than in these stirring performances. Ex Cathedra, a lean chamber choir of ten voices with a continuo of organ and theorbo, is joined by two small brass ensembles, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts and the Concerto Palatino, under the direction of Jeffrey Skidmore. The collaboration of these musicians yields music that is richly harmonious, tonally luminous, and deeply multilayered, as well as rhythmically intricate and lively. The performances were recorded in All Hallows' Church, London, which offers wonderful acoustics that suggest the echoic spaces of San Marco, Venice, and the grandeur of the music is magnified by the spacious dimensions and clarity of the audio. The exceptional performances and the luminous sound of this CD put it among the finest offerings of 2012.

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