Gombert: Magnificats 5-8/Tallis Scholars

Review by: David Vernier

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

For more extended comments on Nicolas Gombert’s set of Magnificats, please refer to my review of the Tallis Scholars’ recording of Nos. 1-4 (type Q4371 in Search Reviews). This magnificent follow-up, completing the choir’s traversal of Gombert’s extraordinary group of eight settings, one on each of the eight modal tones, gives as convincing an example as any as to why we never should assume that we’ve “heard everything” where Renaissance music is concerned. While historical accident and priorities of musicological investigation have dictated the prominence of big names such as Byrd and Palestrina and Tallis, we do ourselves a disservice by assuming that no other talents exist that are as worthy or profound. Gombert is a major–and unique–voice in sacred choral music of this period, and all you have to do is listen to understand his range of invention and to feel its aural and visceral effect. It’s apparent that Gombert was not concerned so much with formality as he was with gut expression, and throughout these pieces we are constantly confronted with the sheer pleasure of sound and sensation embodied in the marvelous strings of dissonances and surprising harmonic splashes. The harmonies are especially striking–sometimes startling–in Magnificat 7, scored for soprano, alto, two tenors, and bass. Textural richness is an ever-present characteristic of these works, and it’s particularly plush in the lower-voice settings such as the soprano-less Magnificat 6, distinguished by its ATTBB arrangement. Magnificat 8 is the most extravagantly scored yet most congenial in overall impression. This is wonderful music, ideally performed and recorded.

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Recording Details:

NICOLAS GOMBERT - Magnificats 5-8

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