BBC Music Magazine
Love is come again
Works by Gesualdo, Taverner, Morley, Schütz etc Monteverdi Choir; English Baroque Soloists/john Eliot Gardiner
Soli Deo Gloria SDG731 67:37 mins
Like John Eliot Gardiner’s 1998 Christmas album Once as I remember, this album stems from mystery plays his mother designed: mounted at the Gardiners’ Springhead estate for and with its community, these plays were a series of scenes mixing music, recitation, tableaux vivants and mimed action. Marabel Gardiner started the
Easter plays in 1963; a year later, John Eliot, then at Cambridge, became more involved, choosing the music – chant, carol, motets, movements from Schütz’s Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi (1623) – involving the Monteverdi Choir he’d just started, and singing the Evangelist’s part.
Now re-invented, the Springhead Easter Play acquires bigger forces (including a period band) and a tougher repertory. The simpler original numbers include some debut recordings, and the new numbers – by Cornysh, L’héritier, Rheinberger and Giovanni
Gabrieli – put the Monteverdi Choir’s prodigious gifts on display. Perfection of blend, plushness of textures, and visceral impact of musical choices are all worldclass, especially in ‘O vos omnes’ (Gesualdo), ‘Dum transisset Sabbatum’ (Taverner), and the bubbly ‘Surrexit pastor bonus’ (Gabrieli). The Schütz sags a bit, due to imbalance between the male soloists, but this does not diminish the luminous beauty of this Easter offering. Berta Joncus PERFORMANCE ★★★★