Review of The Gesualdo Six

By Garry Fraser

"This was serious stuff and The Gesualdo Six are seriously good."

There was some similarity between the performance earlier in the festival of The Sixteen and the recent one of The Gesualdo Six, that of fluency of phrasing, cultured balance and exquisite vocal technique. In short, a capella singing at its very best. There the similarity ended, and as the former’s selection of part-songs had their moments of jollity there was a dearth of such moments in the Six’s programme of Italian madrigals. In fact, you could call it a Gesualdo Seven as director Owain Park was to lend his considerable talents to the proceedings.

The mood was generally bleak, but thereby lies the essence of these madrigals. The group’s journey through 100 years of this genre, courtesy of a dozen composers, was taken with heart-felt passion – and such a delivery was pivotal to the recital’s success.

There was a noticeable sameness to each and every madrigal on show. The incessant reference in the texts to death, sorrow, unrequited love and, in one case, “total extinction” called for slow tempo, or even a languid, approach from composers such as Verdelot, Striggio, Marenzio and Palestrina. What stopped this from being a rather predictable and unexciting recital was the ensemble’s marvellous and expressive interpretation of the music. In the end we had 15 songs that were things of absolute beauty. Not a merry fa-la-la in sight, thank goodness. This was serious stuff and The Gesualdo Six are seriously good.

For anyone not accustomed to this form of madrigal, this ensemble gave the perfect introduction, with Perth’s Museum and Art Gallery providing the perfect acoustic.

Enjoy this concert online until 3rd June. Tickets £8 Book here. Enjoy this excerpt below.