I've had the original release of this performance in my collection for years, but I'd forgotten about it until reminded of the Tenebrae by another amaozon reviewer. This is as musically sophisticated and artful a performance of Gesualdo's eccentric music as you can find on CD, far better to my ear than performances of Gesualdo's sacred music by the Oxford Camerata or other multi-voice choirs. I might prefer a little less reverberance - a more face-to-ear sound - and a little less uniformity of tempo, but those choices were the Hilliard's, and the results are good. I also find Gesualdo's secular madrigals more interesting than his sacred works. He was in a sense the ultimate "short story writer" of music. That doesn't detract, however, from my respect for this performance. Mr "josquin" has narrated everything you need to know about Gesualdo, if you are a neophyte, so read his review also.
Postscript, a month later: I've just listened carefully to the Taverner Consort recording of the Tenebrae, conducted by Andrew Parrott. It's at least as good as the Hilliard, perhaps better on the most chromatic of the Responses. I'm still left wondering why there should be so many recordings of the Tenebrae in comparison to Gesualdo's other works...
The Hilliard Ensemble (DAVID JAMES countertenor, ROGERS COVEY-CRUMP tenor, STEVEN HARROLD tenor, GORDON JONES baritone) is one of the most sophisticated music groups of the day. The degree of their musicality is the pinnacle of perfection and they are able to move from composer to composer with utter ease and understanding of the performing principles of the days when that music was composed. They are the perfect choice for the recording of this huge work by Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, … more
Carlo Gesualdo's name will always conjure up a special image: When he discovered that his wife had been unfaithful, he had her and her lover murdered and left on his palace steps, impaled on the same sword. Ghastly, but gripping--and, oddly enough, his harmonies, dissonances, upsetting chromatic passages, and general complexity can also be seen as "ghastly but gripping." Gesualdo was wealthy enough that he never had to depend on a patron; he could therefore write whatever he pleased, in whatever, far-out (to this day), experimental style he chose. HisTenebrae Responsoriaare particularly thorny--they're a part of the religious service in which the church's candles are extinguished one at a time until the congregation is sitting in darkness--and Gesualdo's music is incredibly deep and troubling. And, I might add, magnificent. The Hilliards perform them ideally, with great technical accuracy, a sense of the weightiness of the text and music, and simply beautiful sound. This is an example of what makes the Hilliards so special.--Robert Levine