Notes and Editorial Reviews
In 1990, in the same Douai Abbey in Berkshire, England, the Hilliard Ensemble recorded (for ECM) all nine of the responsories for Maundy Thursday presented here by the King's Singers--plus the other 18 responsories Gesualdo wrote for Good Friday and Holy Saturday. That two-disc set remains the most complete recording of this service music--and the best-performed--although because of the many-faceted musical/liturgical components required for these Tenebrae services, no two recorded programs are identical, either because of time constraints or just plain musical preferences (check out Philippe Herreweghe's Holy Saturday configuration for Harmonia Mundi, or Andrew Parrott's
Good Friday arrangement for Sony). In order to fit the most important music for the Maundy Thursday service on one CD, the King's Singers chose to modify the number and placement of the lessons, ultimately including only those sung to a designated plainchant melody. Each of the lessons is followed by a set of three responsories. The program closes with Gesualdo's setting of the canticle Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel. If you're thinking of Gesualdo the "extreme-harmonist", as we hear famously in his madrigals, you won't notice so much of that style here--this church music is decidedly moody and relatively refined yet not completely immune from occasional, sudden, delightful surprises.
The King's Singers are always a treat to hear, no matter the repertoire, although I can't remember ever hearing the ensemble sing plainchant before. However, as with everything this inimitable, impeccably-tuned and balanced, stylish male sextet does, the chant is expertly accomplished, and the following multi-part responsories are sincerely felt and warmly resonant. Although I still prefer the smoother transitions and more subtle dynamics and phrasing of the Hilliards, this is an excellent choice for this repertoire, rendered in clear, vibrant sound (when it comes to vocal music, it's always a plus when the name of engineer Mike Hatch appears in the list of recording credits). The liner notes are just detailed enough to define a proper context for composer and music and to provide a rationale for the programming. Complete texts and translations are included. [4/23/2004]
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less
Works on This Recording
Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel by Carlo Gesualdo
Written: 1611; Italy
Length: 8 Minutes 56 Secs.
Featured Sound Samples
Responsories, Feria 5: No 2: Tristis est anima mea
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