GIBBONS: The Silver Swan: The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612) – Claron McFadden & Aleksandra Anisimowicz, sopranos/ The Spirit of Gambo – Stockfisch

GIBBONS: The Silver Swan: The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets (1612) – Claron McFadden & Aleksandra Anisimowicz, sopranos/ The Spirit of Gambo – Stockfisch multichannel SACD SFR 357.4061, 53:21 ****:

Orlando Gibbons was an Oxford composer whose prodigious output represents the late flowering of the English madrigal. Though many of these forms were of lighter music, Gibbons’s collection, also labeled “mottets” shows an exalted conception and a penchant for setting the best poetry. His main exertions were spent on anthems and other choral music of “serious purpose”, yet this present collection is one of the very few to actually be published during his lifetime while he was organist at the Chapel Royal and living in the parish of St. Margaret’s.

The music is wonderful; affective, marvelously wedded to the text, and in possession of some of the most exquisite melodic content you will ever hear. The Spirit of Gambo is a viol consort that specializes in consort music, traditionally played in setting of family and friends, and the two sopranos bring a delightful interaction of contrast and tonal quality that matches Gibbons’ art to perfection. The surround sound is evenly matched among all the speakers, and is a bit blaring at higher levels, though quite clear and lacking in any distortion. A fine recording.

—Steven Ritter

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