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SIG 048
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SIG 048

Gesualdo: The King's Singers

The Classical Shop
release date: June 2007

Originally recorded in 2007


The King's Singers


Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton, Nr Reading, Berkshire

14-19 Jan 2004


Adrian Peacock


Mike Hatch

Record Label



Vocal & Song

Total Time - 66:00
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Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday
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Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday

1 Lectio 1 4:40
  Responsories from 1st Nocturn  
2 In Monte Oliveti 4:39
3 Tristis est anima mea 4:43
4 Ecce vidimus eum 7:26
5 Lectio 2 4:16
  Responsories from 2nd Nocturn  
6 amicus meus osculi 3:53
7 Judas mercator pessimus 2:36
8 Unus ex discipulis meis 6:08
9 Lectio 3 3:56
  Responsories from 3rd Nocturn  
10 Eram quasi agnus innocens 5:11
11 Una hora non potuistis 3:28
12 Seniores populi consilium 6:23
13 Benedictus 7:46
14 Christus factus est 0:55
Gesualdo: Tenebrae Responsories – The King’s Singers

Signum Records is proud to announce the release of the latest recording by The King’s Singers: Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responsories for Maundy Thursday. Carlo Gesualdo, an Italian Prince, is probably most famous for his obsessive double murder of his first wife and her lover, but the same sense of celebrity does not always attach to his music. After the murder of Maria, Gesualdo suffered from severe and increasing feelings of guilt. His sense of a need to do penance never left him and he was moved to compose church music of a most black and self-reproachful nature. The programme on this CD represents a part of the liturgy for the Matins Offices on the final three days of Holy Week, the Triduum Sacrum. Each of the Matins services is divided into three nocturns, each containing psalmody, three lessons and three responsories.

‘…searingly intense, with the singers’ clear, steady sound, beautifully judged changes of pace and dynamics…’

The Daily Telegraph

‘The King’s Singers are always a treat to hear… 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.’

David Vernier,

‘…their reputation for after-dinner smoothness, The King’s Singers… all-male line-up… makes those grinding climaxes all the more tense and penetrating, and the attention given to word-painting is exemplary.’

Ivan Hewitt, The Times

‘…a no holds barred, immaculately sung performance from The King’s Singers. Unmissable.’

Classic FM Magazine

"The King’s Singers admit that is about time for Gesualdo to be recognized as one of the great composers in the history of music, and to be separated from his image of amateur composer.

The King’s Singers is, with no doubt, one of the most solvent and influential groups of the early music performance in the last thirty years. Nowadays, apart from its excellent performances it also offers master classes at different cities all over the world." - 27 April 2004

"Anyone listening to this disc without knowledge of the service of Tenebrae or of Gesualdo’s personal reasons for penitential expression in music will capture the dark spirit of the princely musicians’ work. Thanks to a no holds barred, immaculately sung performance from the King’s Singers, Gesualdo’s Maundy Thursday Responsories convey Gesualdo’s guilt about murdering his first wife. They also capture the mood of Tenebrae to perfection. Unmissable."

Andrew Stewart

Classic FM Magazine - June 2004

"The responsories for the Holy Week service of Tenebrae contain some of the most profound expressions of spiritual desolation to be found anywhere in the Catholic liturgy, and Gesualdo, with his extravagantly dissonant style and his conscience burdened with the guilt of a double murder, was well qualified to give them their ultimate musical incarnation. Such are the technical challenges of this music’s weird harmonic progressions and strangely contorted vocal lines that it is all too easy to let its eccentricity overshadow its expressiveness.

The wonderful thing about this King’s Singers’ recording is that, thanks to a combination of absolute technical assurance and minute attention to the details of Gesualdo’s word-setting, they show his Responsories to be not isolated curiosities but examples of the latest advances in the natural evolution of the polyphonic style. Far from diminishing the music’s extreme emotional impact, the effect is even more searingly intense, with the singers’ clear, steady sound, beautifully judged changes of pace and dynamics, and sense of the overall shape of each piece."

Elizabeth Roche

Daily Telegraph - 24 May 200

"As the membership of the King’s Singers has metamorphosed over the years, one is reminded of the man who had a broom which had had seven new heads and five new handles but was still as good as new. Their name has long been a byword for excellence and their reputation is further enhanced by this wonderful CD. Gesualdo was a child of his times and a victim of his personal circumstances. The counter reformation inspired Catholic artists and musicians to come to the aid of their embattled church. Add to this Gesualdo’s neurotic personality and guilt for the murder of his first wife, not to mention his own adulterous behavior during both marriages, and the ground is prepared for some of the most distinctive and intense music of any period. In the Tenebrae Responseries Gesulado gives his tortured genius full rein and the King’s Singers do him full justice in terms of balance, clarity of tone and diction and, and sheer interpretative intelligence. A must!"

Alan Spedding

Cathedral Music - 2004

"Tenebrae means "shadows", and this extraordinary music by that tormented genius Don Carlo Gesualdo does indeed dwell in the shadows.

When it rises to a passionate declamation, the effect isn’t a brightening but an intensification of the gloom. These pieces are part of matins, for the Holy Week, and tell the story of Christ in the Garden, his betrayal by Judas and his subsequent arrest. The CD cover shows a candelabra with a solitary lit candle, a reference to the old Catholic practice of extinguishing all the candles in the church as the liturgy unfolds, until only one is left burning.

The penitential tone of the liturgy must have appealed to Gesualdo, much of whose life was spent atoning for an early sin. In 1589, after only four years of marriage, he discovered his wife in flagrante and had them both killed. The trauma of this event added to his already overwrought sensibility, which found an outlet in composing music of amazing originality. These responsories are every bit as intense as his more well-known erotic madrigals, and they have the same masochistic delight in grinding dissonances.

Given their reputation for after-dinner smoothness, the King’s Singers hardly seem the ideal group for such fierce, dark music, but the all-male line-up does it proud. Using counter tenors instead of sopranos or trebles makes those grinding climaxes all the more tense and penetrating, and the attention given to word-painting is exemplary."

Ivan Hewitt

The Times - 8 May 2004

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