CHRISTOPHER GIBBONS - Motets, anthems and fantasias - Richard Egarr

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CHRISTOPHER GIBBONS - Motets, anthems and fantasias - Academy of Ancient Music - Choir of the AAM - Richard Egarr (Dir. and Organ) - Hybrid SACD - 0093046755164 - Released: August 2012 - Harmonia Mundi 807551

Christopher Gibbons (1615-1676) is a prime example of a gifted composer completely eclipsed by the stature of a famous father, in this case Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625). Orlando Gibbons is recognized as being one of the first, along with Byrd, to introduce passages for solo voices with organ accompaniment within the framework of the English Anthem. His instrumental music is also known to have imposed a major influence on the future developments of English Baroque music. And based on the quality of the music on display in this world première recording, Orlando must also have been a great teacher and mentor to his son.

Not unto us, O Lord which opens the CD, displays the same level of harmonic daring and contrapuntal complexity in favor at the time, and usually attributed to only the grand masters of the High Renaissance. It instantly establishes Christopher's credentials as a creative composer. The handful of solo organ works, despite being more ornamented, bring to mind the music of Sweelinck, primarily due to their repetitive, canonic and linear development. On the other hand, the various works for instrumental ensemble display a wider range of expressions along with a stronger imagination. Music that points forward to Purcell and Marais. One has to wonder why it took about 350 years for this music to make its reappearance, and why so many other composers from the same period, including lesser ones like Lawes, have been in the public ear for many years.

Richard Egarr has been a driving force behind many excellent Baroque music recordings over the last decade or so, including highly esteemed Bach and Handel releases bestowed with many awards. I wouldn't be surprised if this new recording went on to be considered the "discovery" of the year. It's always good to see an unjustly neglected composer rescued from the jaws of oblivion.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2012