CD Review – Music From 4 To 40 Parts

CD Review – Music From 4 To 40 Parts

Vaughan McAlley
Ensemble Gombert; Four Seasons Quartet
Move MD 3437

Vaughan McAlley is a Melbourne based singer with the a cappella choir Ensemble Gombert. The soaring harmonies and mysterious counterpoint of the choral repertoire of the high renaissance has inspired him to compose new works in a similar style.

The CD opens with the charming A Birthday in 5 parts, very much of the 16th century, reminiscent of John Dowland, and beautifully sung. This intimate work stands in complete contrast to the spectacular Omnes angeli for 40 voices that concludes the CD. This is the first motet with 40 completely separate parts to be composed in 340 years.

I enjoyed Rosamounde, a ballade for 8 to 18 voices, a rousing work that really does soar when all 18 voices have entered. Michael Keiran Harvey plays McAlley’s Four chorale preludes for piano, thoughtful and beautiful pieces providing a welcome contrast in a program of weighty choral works. The Four Seasons Quartet follows with the Lento from McAlley’s String quartet. This is a fine modern work, with expressive silences and pizzicato playing for effect. The Lord bless you and keep you is an attractive chorale with an obligato for alto recorder that lilts nicely above the voices and is another welcome contrast in the program.

The choir sings McAlley’s fine compositions creditably, but occasionally shows the difficulties in the music more than would a professional choir such as the Tallis Scholars. Altogether this is an impressive recording which I recommend to all music lovers.

Robert Small

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