Missa Si Deus Pro Nobis; Magnificat a 16 voci
Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet
Alpha Classics ALPHA 400 (hybrid CD/SACD) 60:31 mins
Take eight four-part choirs. To six of these choirs, allot a simple accompaniment, a regal perhaps, or a five-string bass violin. To the remainder, something a little more ambitious: a choir of dulcians and chest organ for one; sackbuts and a cornett to bedeck the other… Welcome to the sumptuous 17th-century surround-sound world of Missa Si Deus Pro Nobis composed by Franco-Italian composer Orazio Benevolo (1605-72), and to a journey that began two decades ago when Hervé Niquet and Le Concert Spirituel released a disc of Benevolo’s Missa Azzolina (still available on Naxos) – until now the only disc entirely devoted to the composer’s music available in the catalogue. Like its predecessor, this new recording was made in the church of Notre-Dame du Liban, Paris, but now the sound picture is set further back to allow the rolling acoustics to act like a natural mixing desk as the ear is led from choir to choir, or as tuttis swell imperiously to envelop the space.
Hervé Niquet appropriately creates a liturgical framework, weaving plainchant, motets and instrumental items around the main work; these also serve to contrast with and complement the sometimes gluttonously rich textures of the Mass itself – the ethereally sopranos-dominated ‘Regna Terrae’ the perfect prelude to a concluding 16-part Magnificat whose blocks of sound are tossed around with jubilant aplomb. Niquet does a heroic job in holding it all together. The end of the Credo detonates gloriously resonant brass depth charges; the nimble counterpoint of the second ‘Kyrie’ energises and blazes; while the ‘Agnus Dei’ spreads out a multi-layered feast. Altogether, a wonderful disc of music fully deserving discovery. Bravo Benevolo – and his latter-day champions!