Sometimes, as you enter a concert venue, you instantly sense that you are in for a particularly special evening. Such was the case with the Marian Consort's candlelit recital in the New College Ante-Chapel last Friday evening. The ambience created by the soft lighting was effortlessly complemented by this small but immaculate vocal ensemble, formed exactly a year ago to present historically informed interpretations of the sacred and secular repertoire of the Renaissance.

That scholarly approach was very much in evidence on Friday as the six singers, under the authoritative direction of Jeremy Summerly, gave a carefully measured performance of Tenebrae Responsories for Good Friday by the Italian composer Carlo Gesualdo. Perhaps best known as the man who brutally murdered his wife and her lover, Gesualdo's notoriety has often overshadowed his music, which is characterised by extremes of emotion - testament, some consider, to his life-long guilt. This is demonstrated in the madrigal-style Responseries, which capture the torment and agony of Christ's suffering on the Cross with exceptional clarity.

Friday's performance did full justice to the composer's emotional intensity, with the singers faithfully and accurately giving expression to the passion, drama and despair of Christ's final hours. Tonal purity, clear diction and intelligent phrasing combined to produce a performance of exceptional musicality and sincerity, with the six voices blending with natural ease.

The Responsories were interspersed with two contrasting studies from the lute book of Simone Molinaro, Gesualdo's contemporary, performed here with technical mastery by Daniel Stachowiak. The Fantasia X was a contemplative study, which Stachowiak performed with deliberation and thoughtfulness, while the dance-style Corrente a la maniera de'i Francesi was imbued with appropriate lightness of touch.

The programme was completed with a performance of Miserere (Psalm 50), which complemented the Responsories with its theme of sin, forgiveness and redemption.

This was a memorable evening, with the performers drawing the audience in to create a truly stirring experience. For more information about the Marian Consort, visit