Review: La Nuova Musica, Snape Maltings, April 23

The vocal and instrumental ensemble La Nuova Musica was founded five years ago by its director David Bates. In that period it has established its reputation for outstanding performances of European Renaissance and Baroque music.

Saturday’s early evening concert was built around Gesualdo’s Tenebrae Responseries for Holy Saturday, so the timing could not have been better.

The programme opened with the 8-part Crucifixus by the Venetian Antonio Lotti. The piece begins quietly in the depths but gradually the singers effectively used the suspensions to build a realistic impression of physical torture.

Gesualdo’s anguished and tortured private life has always accompanied his reputation but in the Tenebrae Responses, published towards the end of his life, he writes in a less flamboyant vein and with close attention to the text. The singers were alert to every nuance and detail be it the grating harmonies of slaughter and death or the lively exhortations for the Kings of the Earth to rise up. The intensity and interest of the piece was well balanced by splitting it in two with a performance of 3 madrigals by Johann Scheinn in between. A reduced choir sang these superbly, the highly chromatic opening of Die mit Tranen making a deep impression. In the second half of the Gesualdo Responsory 8 ‘…. Those that go down the pit … into the lower depths’ had a gripping sense of gloom and foreboding.

The final work was the well known Allegri Misere with the plainchant coming from behind the stage screens. The soprano high C’s were beautifully realised and the performance had real devotional fervour.

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This was an hour and a bit of something special – pure, clear and uplifting. Director David Bates radiated a passion and commitment for the music to which the singers responded wholeheartedly. Throughout the concert their voices blended unerringly to produce a wonderful homogeneity of sound.

Gareth Jones

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