Frescobaldi: Messa della Madonna

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Frescobaldi
LABELS: Deutsche Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Messa della Madonna
PERFORMER: Canticum/Christoph ErkensLorenzo Ghielmi (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 05472 77345 2
Following the welcome trend of presenting music in context (Monteverdi’s Vespers/Parrott; Praetorius and Venetian ceremonial music/McCreesh), here is Frescobaldi’s organ music in its proper place within a plainchant Mass, and it is much more alive than an archival collection which no one in their right mind (bar, perforce, a reviewer) wants to hear at one sitting.

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The nine unison voices of Canticum sing with flexible ease and impeccable intonation – essential where they alternate, unaccompanied, with the organ in the Kyrie of the Mass and two items from Vespers. Authentic pitch, a tone above today’s, adds a sense of ardour and commitment.

Ghielmi plays a restored organ from 1558: crisp, bright and tuned in a pure-thirds temperament which generates astonishing melodic intervals (the chromatic Recercar dopo il Credo is amazing) and wonderfully rich vertical sonority. The harmonic palette of the Elevation toccata and the solo voice repeating ‘Sancta Maria’ in another ricercar are also striking.

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Though the recorded sound could have capitalised on the lurking resonance of the music, and the booklet is rather inaccurate and generalised, this is an engaging and revealing disc. George Pratt