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Gesualdo: Sacrae Cantiones, Liber Secundus / James Wood, Vocalconsort Berlin

Gesualdo / Vocalconsort Berlin / Wood
Release Date: 02/12/2013 
Label:  Harmonia Mundi   Catalog #: 902123   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Carlo Gesualdo
Conductor:  James Wood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocalconsort Berlin
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

GESUALDO Sacrae Cantiones, Liber Secundus. Miserere. Benedictus James Wood, cond; Vocalconsort Berlin HARMONIA MUNDI 907123 (69:22 Text and Translation)

The quatercentenary of Don Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1611) is the occasion for a major addition to the composer’s discography. Jeremy Summerly’s collection of Cantiones Sacrae, Liber Primus of 1603 ( Read more style="font-style:italic">Fanfare 18:1) was titled “Complete Sacred Music for Five Voices.” Recordings of those 19 motets had appeared only in partial collections, half of them never recorded at all up to that time. Another book of motets for six and seven voices was published in the same year under the same title, as mentioned in the previous review, but it is referred to (here, at least) by a less confusing title, the second book. Since the part-books for Bassus and Sextus have been lost, this collection of 20 motets has not been performable until James Wood began, in 2008, to reconstruct the missing voices. Now we can hear the result. Full value has been assured by filling out the playing time with the Psalm and canticle from the Tenebrae music of 1611 framing the Cantiones. Wood has programmed the Cantiones not in the order of publication but in groups that he describes as prayers for salvation; despair and weeping; peace and hope; praise and thanks.

Wood’s reconstruction of the two missing part-books is described in some detail in the notes printed in the booklet, which can be found in an extended version on the label’s website. He makes it clear that Stravinsky’s reconstruction of three of these motets was not the sort that a musicologist would consider stylistically correct but rather a fusion of styles, Gesualdo’s and Stravinsky’s. Stravinsky completed the seven-voice “Illumina nos” in 1957, the six-voice “Da pacem, Domine” and “Assumpta est Maria” in 1959 (Stravinsky conducted the last one in New York in January 1960). It should be noted also that Stravinsky involved Glenn Watkins, later Gesualdo’s biographer and co-editor of his collected works, in the examination of the part-books, and Watkins found that, while the seven-voice motets lacked two parts, the six-voice motets lacked only one voice. I tried unsuccessfully to obtain some clarification of this. To my ear, Wood has completed the motets and performed them with complete success. Happy anniversary, Don Carlo.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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Works on This Recording

Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel by Carlo Gesualdo
Conductor:  James Wood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocalconsort Berlin
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1611; Italy 
Responsoria: Miserere by Carlo Gesualdo
Conductor:  James Wood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocalconsort Berlin
Sacrae Cantiones, Liber secundus by Carlo Gesualdo
Conductor:  James Wood
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vocalconsort Berlin

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