Ensemble Gombert’s 30th year did not go to plan due to COVID, so this one-off concert was a welcome return to live performance for the renowned Melbourne choir. A celebration of French composer Josquin des Prez, the program of six motets was performed with a fine balance of studied precision and discreet joy by the 22 singers.
Ensemble Gombert. Photograph courtesy of Melbourne Recital Centre
Pleasantly more representative of the Australian community than one might expect of a choir specialising in a cappella performance of Franco-Flemish music of the High Renaissance, Ensemble Gombert stepped onto the stage in casual concert black. They began with Praeter rerum seriem, a work that is austere yet suggestive of mystery, starting low and sombre then building into a polyphonic masterpiece. The choir’s five parts passed the melody between them with beautiful fluidity and, as was the case throughout the performance, sang the text with splendid clarity.
The choir’s ever-calm, avuncular director John O’Donnell then took a few moments to address the audience, explaining that this being the 500th year since Josquin’s death is one of few things known about the composer. Among the interesting snippets he revealed was...