Tonight the high vaulted ceilings of Delft’s iconic leaning Oude Kerk (founded in 1246 and first opened in 1350), resounded to the angelic voices of The Gesualdo Six, a British sextet specialising in motets and madrigals. Espousing the name of Gesualdo sets the bar high.
Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa, Prince of Venosa and Count of Conza (1566-1613), notorious for the bloody slaying his unfaithful wife and her lover, as well as for his sado-masochistic practices for which he kept a special servant, instructed to beat him during the most intimate acts, was also a prolific writer of the most beautiful and complex sacred music. His 16th century compositions are said to have used a chromatic language not heard again until the arrival of Richard Wagner.
Tonight’s concert consisted of a total of seventeen pieces included five works by Gesulado as well as by contemporaries such as Thomas Tallis, John Plummer, Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, Clemens non Papa, Luca Marenzi and Hildegard von Bingen. Also performed were a several 20th century compositions by American Sarah Rimkus and Eric Whitacre and Canadian Gerda Block-Wilson.
The Gesualdo Six explored and exploited the architecture and the acoustics of the Oude Kerk to the maximum as they moved around the building thereby producing a great and wonderful variety of resonance, allowing their voices to swell into the different space. The only problem for me was that, although there was a beautifully situated podium, the singers spent little time on it, instead proceeding around, monk style, so that spectators were deprived of the visual pleasure for a large part of the concert – as in the Lijm & Cultuur event.
However, this was probably compensated for by the exquisite voices of The Gesualdo Six who 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.
If I had to award points for this concert I would give it ten for musical performance but only four for presentation, . Astrid Burchardt, 1st August 2018
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