Davies discovers aspects of himself in examining one of his most troubled predecessors. That discovery can take place either on his home ground (in the mezzo-soprano version, writen for The Fires of London), or with chorus singing Gesualdo's O Vos Omnes and repeatedly falling silent so that the musical argument may continue on a different plane, that of Davies's four meditations for sextet, murmuring darkly about Gesualdo's ideas.
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Meanwhile, as the midnight sun rose from the day’s unremitting gloom, the lights in St Magnus’ long sandstone nave were dimmed for a rare performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ Tenebrae super Gesualdo, the four meditations for ensemble, originally written for the Fires of London, and now played graphically by members of the Arhus Sinfonietta, complete with the original, alternating fragments of Gesualdo’s O vos omnes. Even the composer had never heard a complete performance before, and was clearly impressed by the richly coloured voices of Orkney’s Mayfield Singers, echoing from the west end of the nave.
Hilary Finch, The Times, “St Magnus Festival, Orkney, June 1996”