Thursday, 23 June 2016

Gesualdo - Sacrae Cantiones Liber Secundus - VocalConsort Berlin/Wood

Rating: 5/5

An excellent reconstruction

This is a very good disc of some of Gesualdo's sacred works, reconstructed by James Wood from the parts which have survived. It's a fascinating and very lovely disc.

Gesualdo's music is famously idiosyncratic, with liberal use of chromaticism and highly unusual contrapuntal effects. This has made some of his recordings rather a struggle for me; The Tallis Scholars' recording of his Tenebrae Responsories is just about the only disc of theirs which I can't play with unalloyed pleasure, for example. The music here is considerably less extreme and the chromatic effects add a genuine frisson of excitement rather than just make it seem plain bonkers as some of his other music does to me. I am not musician enough to know whether this is intrinsic to Gesualdo's music or due to James Wood's more gentle reconstruction, but he is a very considerable scholar (as is the great Andrew Parrott, whose "very great help and advice" Wood acknowledges) so I am very willing to accept this as a good approximation to Gesualdo himself.

The effect in the recording is very pleasing. The music is adventurous while remaining very beautiful and the performances are excellent throughout. They are very well balanced with a good blend but with every part distinctly audible. Their technical excellence is plain as they make the challenges of this music seem simple, and they bring real meaning to the texts. It is a pleasure to listen to.

The recorded sound is excellent and the booklet is very attractively presented with very interesting notes by James Wood and full texts and translations. This is an excellent disc all round and very warmly recommended.

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