Reviews

English Motets

Cathedral Music Magazine, Timothy Storey | November 2018

“…this is a CD of rare quality, the very first note arresting our attention with a countertenor tone of great beauty.

“…a beatific smile of pure enjoyment as we listened to this admirably constructed programme: and we agreed that we had never heard better performances of the three Byrd motets, Vigilate being sung with great energy and dramatic power, and Civitas sancti tui, the magnificent second part of Ne irascaris, given at a properly slow tempo with great pathos and expression.

“There is not a bad track anywhere… I have no hesitation in recommending this as an anthology of the highest quality, excellently sung and recorded.”


Świdnica Bach Festival

Świdnica24 | August 2018

“Although the ensemble has only been performing together for four years, they have managed to gain much public recognition in Europe.

“The ensemble is made up of gifted English singers whose reputation brought many willing audience members on Friday evening to St Joseph’s Church – which was completely full. Music lovers were enthralled by the beautiful performance of renaissance polyphony.”

Read the full review here.


Delft Chamber Music Festival

Artstalk Magazine, Holland, Astrid Burchardt | August 2018

“The Gesualdo Six… managed to extract every drop of emotion, colour and drama from the music.

“Special mention must go to Owain Park, the conductor, who at one point seemed to draw the heavenly sounds out of the singer’s mouths with a simple gesture of his fingers. With the voices soaring and interweaving high above us, it occurred to me that it was no wonder that in centuries past, congregations sitting in the first gothic cathedrals, believed in angels.”

Read the full review here.


English Motets

The Royal School of Church Music, Stuart Robinson | June 2018

“…theirs is a silky, smooth, fresh sound, and, with just a handful of singers, there’s an intimacy of performance not possible with larger numbers. There’s some nifty singing on this CD – Byrd’s Vigilate is a case in point – and, by contrast, warmth and richness in works such as John Sheppard’s Libera nos, salva nos.

“With comprehensive, scholarly CD notes from Owain Park, this is an excellent collection.”

Read the full review here.


English Motets

BBC Music Magazine, Paul Riley | June 2018

Performance ★★★★★ — Recording ★★★★★

“…while the title can’t be faulted on grounds of accuracy, ‘English Motets’ gives little hint of the glorious treasure trove lurking within.

“Weavers of rich and plangent aural tapestries, The Gesualdo Six meld style and substance with beguiling sure-footedness. An auspicious debut.”


English Motets

Diapason | May Edition 2018

Five Diapasons – For a first recording, this is a superb success

“The young English sextet succeeds, from the very first moments, to capture the attention by imposing a new and very particular voice. An original way of singing these polyphonies, which combines an absolute technical perfection – intonation, diction – with an intimate, enveloping and soft sound. So at the antipodes of the clamour chosen by The Cardinall’s Musick with the same number of singers.

“If the individual voices are always recognizable, the overall sound blends in with a superb homogeneity. We appreciate the magnitude of the expressive spectrum covered by this anthology, and the impressive capacity of The Gesualdo Six to create contrasted climates, from the deepest recollection (Ne Irascaris) to the jubilant vigor (Vigilate).”


English Motets

BBC Record Review, Andrew MacGregor | April 2018

“This selection of English motets proves to be a fine showcase for their clear voices, immaculate intonation and a certain instinct for the drama and intensity of the repertoire, as they explore the extraordinary journey that composition took around the English Reformation.”


English Motets

The Daily Telegraph | April 2018

★★★★★ Spellbound by a medley of mighty motets

“The genre [motets] flourished mightily in England, as it did all over Europe, and Owain Park, the director of young vocal group The Gesualdo Six has set out to represent the English kind in all its variety.

“It’s an ambitious aim for a single CD – but Park pulls it off. The blend and tuning of the voices is so fine that the group achieves a powerfully full sound.

“The sheer beauty of the group’s sound in lofty high-Renaissance style pieces like Byrd’s Miserere is spellbinding. The fine-grained texture of solo voices allows us to savour the amazing harmonic pungency of English sacred music, which at times seems almost modernist. It is a wonderful achievement.”


English Motets

Gramophone | April 2018

“The vocal quality is very fine, not to say superb, and when the music calls for an extrovert approach (as do Byrd’s Vigilate or, very differently, Dunstable’s four-voice Veni Sancte Spiritus) the singers respond with an athleticism and a feel for pacing that isn’t perhaps so common. The close miking does justice to the contrapuntal details, maintaining clarity in all but the densest writing.”


St John’s Smith Square Holy Week Festival: Fading

Ian Louis Harris | March 2018

“What a super short concert it was. Indeed, the opening number, Tallis’s Te Lucis Ante Terminum, was worth the price of admission alone.”

Read the full review here.


Temple Winter Festival

Claire Seymour | December 2017

“The programme juxtaposed the traditional with the modern and the Gesualdo Six switched between the two with admirable ease.”

Read the full review here.


Kepler’s Trial

Seen and Heard International | November 2017

“The Gesualdo Six are outstanding, shifting impeccably from Renaissance polyphony to twenty-first century music.”

Read the full review here.


Brighton Early Music Festival

Andrew Connal | November 2017

“Tallis’ Whitsuntide motet ‘Loquebantur variis linguis’ delivered a confident opening which was followed by Alonso Lobo’s heart-rending ‘Versa est in luctum’ where they really started to show their sensitivity and refinement. This reached amazing levels of precision ensemble and vocal colour in Ligeti’s ‘Nonsense Madrigals’ and again in Chilcott’s playful arrangement of ‘Greensleeves’, in which they sang the piano part too!”

Read the full review here.


Tage Alter Musik Regensburg

Andrew Benson-Wilson | June 2017

“The late night (10.45pm) concert in the Schottenkirche St. Jakob (with its extraordinary sculptures) was given by the young British a cappella vocal group The Gesualdo Six, directed by Owain Park, making their German debut with their programme Journey through the Music of the English Masters. With composers ranging from Dunstable to Tomkins they explored some of the finest music ever produced from the British Isles in a well-balanced and varied programme. They were particularly good at the distinctively English false relations heard in Taverner’s Quemadmodum and Loquebantur from Tallis, the master of such scrunchy harmonic twists and turns. His cadence on Alleluia must be amongst the most beautiful in the history of music, almost equalled by the final cadence of his Suscipe quaeso Domine. These pieces were contrasted by the relative simplicity of Sheppard’s Libera nos II and White’s Christe, qui lux es et dies. The emotional intensity and changes in volume in, for example, Byrd’s Vigilate, were well handled, sounding completely natural to the music. The two countertenors, Guy James and Alex Chance were very impressive. The audience response was particularly enthusiastic, and rightly so.” 

Read the full review here.


The Tablet

Rick Jones | February 2016

Naming your all-male vocal sextet after an uxoricide may not be the best start to a career, but apart from that, The Gesualdo Six have everything going for them – talent, youth, stamina, confidence and years of experience of singing the most difficult vocal polyphony in the repertoire. The three pairs of altos, tenors and basses who make up this new ensemble are recent graduates from Cambridge chapel choirs, now practising as freelance professional singers.

Just days before the start of Lent, they sang with utter conviction, perfect intonation, impeccable blend, just balance and even a little humour Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday. They negotiated with ease the astringent chords and acute progressions through which the composer never stopped expressing his bitter remorse after the cold-blooded murder of his wife and her lover in the centre of Naples in 1590.

The Tenebrae services should take place in the darkness before dawn on the last three days of Holy Week, but this performance was at lunchtime. Even so they created the stillness and peace of night in the hushed awe that greeted each Responsory. They sang the Latin as if it were a second language, making sense of what are reactions to the specified readings from Lamentations and Corinthians (which we did not hear), the abject confessions, the precipitous excuses.

Each Responsory contains a fast section, usually of short frantic phrases across the parts, which are the most difficult to integrate, but the sextet knew exactly where their harmonies were heading, often illustrating the text with impromptu looks and body gestures, the tenor’s little wake-up kick at vigilate (“be watchful”), the shiver that ran through the voices at fugam (“flee”). They were completely involved with text and score, singing their own part while meshing with the others so that Gesualdo’s gorgeous Poulenc-esque phrase on ego vadam, justified its several repetitions. The blend is superb; but the line-up consists of soloists who will surely also appear as Evangelists, lieder singers or lute-song recitalists in time.

The group resembles The King’s Singers 50 years on except that they have a conductor. Owain Park moulded the beat with fluency and a sense of momentum. Any blemishes – the slight wobble at the start of VII, the single departure from unanimity in the plainsong, were minimal and only human. The concert was part of St John’s Young Artists’ series, which presents them again on Tuesday 12 April.

Read the full review here.


Varsity

Olivia Bell | March 2015

★★★★★

What was immediately clear from the first plainsong, sung hauntingly by Michael Craddock, was the effortless poise of the group; here is a choir that brings the same stillness to their demeanour as to their most quiet, gentle passages, and the professionalism shown by all six singers both during and between responses was impressive for what is on paper, though not in sound, effectively an amateur ensemble.

Each vocal part showed control and dexterity that blended with the next, but in particular Hiroshi Amako’s plaintive ‘Mellius illi erat’ during the sixth Responsary was deeply moving. At times you felt like there were a hundred voices; at others, only one.

The communication between each vocal part added to the wonderful sense of line throughout the work.

…what Owain Park and the singers have managed to achieve is an ensemble with extraordinary potential, who stand head and shoulders above any other vocal group in Cambridge, and who surely have a promising future ahead.

Read the full review here.

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