LABELS: Arte Nova
WORKS: Messa sopra l’aria di Fiorenza
PERFORMER: Lyra Ensemble, Munich Orpheus Choir/Gerd Guglhör
CATALOGUE NO: 74321 75500 2
Even in their own time, Frescobaldi and Cavalli were known for their secular music. The former was renowned as a keyboard virtuoso and composer, the latter as a pioneer of opera. Today, with nearly all of their sacred music lost, those reputations are fixed. Yet both men spent much of their lives working for the Church, Frescobaldi at St Peter’s in Rome, Cavalli at St Mark’s in Venice. So this disc, which offers one of only two surviving Masses by Frescobaldi and one of three sets of Vespers by Cavalli, scores high for curiosity value.
Frescobaldi’s brief Messa sopra l’aria di Fiorenza is a delight, its richly woven polyphony full of inventive variety. Cavalli’s 1675 Vespers, though, are disappointing. Written in a deliberately old-fashioned style, with the emphasis on strict counterpoint and textual declamation, this is functional church music for ceremonial occasions. The notes suggest cornetts and trombones should be included in the instrumentation, but none were used for this 1999 live performance, which fails to convey any real sense of grandeur. Two Marian antiphons by Cavalli, interpolated from other sources, simply sound out of place. And while the original Latin texts have been translated into German, no English translations are included. Graham Lock