A & G Gabrieli

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: A & G Gabrieli
LABELS: Chandos Chaconne
WORKS: Choral Works
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0697
So I wasn’t the only one feeling sorry for poor Andrea Gabrieli, usually reduced to an organ flourish to warm us up for nephew Giovanni’s grand gestures. The obvious redress is to check out what this first organist of St Mark’s (Giovanni was mere No. 2) wrote for church – but Timothy Roberts has done that, very well (Hyperion) and Paul McCreesh did it even better in his famous ‘Venetian Coronation, 1595’ (now on HMV Classics – a bargain). So Robert Hollingworth’s spirited group has capitalised on the fact that not a lot of people (including me) know Andrea wrote lots of madrigals.

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And that he beat Phil Spector to the ‘wall of sound’ by several centuries: with just six parts, Gabrieli paints a convincing battle canvas; with ten, he has you cowering at the divine rage of Juno. I Fagiolini’s vehemence is impressive here, but elsewhere, afraid perhaps that madrigals are just for girls, they tend to over-apply it, though not to an exquisite pastoral lover’s complaint at springtime. And, sorry, I can’t stand ‘comedy’ voices, even in jokey dialect numbers. Still, no contest between I Fagiolini and Weser-Renaissance, whose rival survey on CPO is tentative-sounding and poorly recorded. On both discs, it’s good to have sonorous sackbuts lending variety with canzonas and instrumental numbers – but… accompanying madrigals? Not even Phil Spector would do that. Nick Morgan