Cavalli: Canzonas; Motets

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COMPOSERS: Cavalli
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Canzonas; Motets
PERFORMER: Seicento, Parley of Instruments/ Peter Holman
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66970
Hyperion’s gift for espousing good causes continues with a new series designed to reveal the riches of the Italian middle Baroque. Cavalli, shamefully neglected on record compared with his master Monteverdi, provides an inspired starting point – a double-choir Mass, interspersed with four instrumental canzonas and two passionate motets.

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The eight young voices of Seicento are, in turn, energetic (the exultant opening Gloria for example), rapturous in Cavalli’s lilting opera-derived bel canto, and deeply affecting: a solo meditation on the Virgin is breathtaking; ‘O bone Jesu’ becomes a fervent love duet. As Cavalli superimposes scansion – some of it strangely capricious – on the fragmented text of the Mass, so Holman moulds it into long passages of engagingly vital rhythm.

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The Parley of Instruments, Renaissance strings and trombones, has continuo support from a new organ designed on Italian models and vividly characterful. The transparent clarity of both instruments and voices is warmed by the enveloping acoustic of St Jude’s, Hampstead Garden Suburb, chosen to match Cavalli’s own context, St Mark’s in Venice. This is a ‘first’ you should not miss. George Pratt