Fading: The Gesualdo Six

The Office of Compline inspires this magnificent programme

Fading: The Gesualdo Six

Owain Park's vocal group The Gesualdo Six is the new kid on the block: it was formed as recently as 2014, specifically for a performance of Gesualdo's Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday. Their disc on Hyperion, Fading, is their third for that label (English Motets and Christmas being the previous two offerings: links below) and it's a corker.

It's not just the small number of performers, it's the sense of transparency that makes these performances so appealing - to wax poetical, it's like the music is illuminated from within but simultaneously heard in a pool of light. Each and every piece of the 18 on the album is radiant in its own way.

The disc's title, Fading, refers to the fading of daylight and the Office of Compline and the music explores this via composers from Hildegard of Bingen (whose aptitude for heavenly melody rivals Mozart) through to the present day in Jonathan Seers (Look down, O Lord), Sarah Rimkus (My heart is like a singing bird) and Gerda Blok-Wilson (O little rose, O dark rose).

What's nice about what we're doing here at Classical Explorer is that, if one purchases the disc, we get to contrast live performances via YouTube with the recorded ones on the disc. Here, for example, is Owain Park's own Phos hilarion, a setting of one of the earliest of known Christian hymns. Here is the Gesualdo Six in performance at Ely Cathedral:

Owain Park: Phos hilalrion

The still centre of the disc is a six-voice motet by Nicolas Gombert (c. 1495-1560), his Media vita, full of delicious clashes as the composer cries out to his God for help. In absentia The Gesualdo Six, let's enjoy an alternative performance (again, disc in hand, one could compare and contrast this with Fading's account) here with the Huelgas Ensemble and Paul Van Nevel:

Gombert: Media vita

And to take a piece closer to our time, here is Veljo Tormis' lullaby Marjal aega margal (It's time for the little berry to sleep), one of two lullabies on the disc (the other is by William Byrd):

(performed at the church of St Bartholemew The Great)

The recording itself is fabulous - Adrian Peacock, himself a fine bass singer, is the Producer and the experienced David Hinitt is Engineer, the venue St George's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge.

The Gesualdo Six was most recently featured in the wonderful Live from London series curated by Voces8, a series of concerts that continues through to October.