COMPOSERS: Banchieri,Cavalli,Fasolo,Finetti,G Gabrieli,Grandi,Marini,Monteverdi,Rigatti
WORKS: Music by Monteverdi, Rigatti, Grandi, Cavalli, Finetti, Marini, Banchieri, G Gabrieli, Fasolo
PERFORMER: Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 437 552-2 DDD
It’s a delightful and apt idea to present this vital, colourful music functioning in its religious context, a living musical event complete with ambient noise, rather than a collection of pieces for the archives.
The voices characterise superbly – as distant monks chanting plainsong with thin Continental vowels; singing sensuous love songs to the Virgin; combining with rasping martial brass in the psalmist’s violent imagery of war. The scale, 20 voices and 15 instruments, calculated from descriptions in contemporary letters, perfectly balances clarity with, at times, magnificently weighty sonorities.
Outstanding are two high falsettists – one scaling soprano G. No less ravishing are the duetting sopranos in two Monteverdi psalm settings – though occasionally, in ‘Laetatus sum’ for instance, speed favours virtuosity at the expense of dancing lilt. Among some less familiar composers, Giovanni Antonio Rigatti is a revelation, a contemporary of Monteverdi and almost his match – and otherwise totally unrepresented on record.
Put on headphones, turn out the light, and there you are in St Mark’s, from the distant tinkling of the sacristy bell, through intensely expressive Marian motets bordering on the erotic in both text and music, to the luxuriant grandeur of double choirs and instruments echoing under those golden cupolas. George Pratt