A Gabrieli: Missa Pater peccavi; Motets

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COMPOSERS: A Gabrieli
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Missa Pater peccavi; Motets
PERFORMER: His Majestys Consort of Voices, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts/Timothy Roberts
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67167
Andrea Gabrieli has been overshadowed by his avant-garde nephew Giovanni. Yet he devoted 50 years to the service of music in Venice, finally becoming first organist at St Mark’s from 1584. This disc confirms his craftsmanship as composer. Roberts, with cornetts, refined sackbutts (narrow-bore trombones) and a newly formed six-voice Consort, accentuates the wide range of timbral options possible in music ostensibly in the high Renaissance vocal tradition. For the Mass, six solo voices are doubled by instruments and organ. Word-painting is limited; texture and imitations are here to enjoy for their own sake, though occasional bursts of colour – ‘rex coelestis’ in the Gloria – are all the more striking for their rarity.

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Music interspersed between the Mass movements provided, for me, the high spots. Roberts plays a canzona, ‘Petit Jacquet’, on an exquisite copy of a 17th-century organ tuned to a deliciously consonant temperament, bathing each new harmony in a different hue. A ricercar inventively combines colours of cornett in its low register, viola, sackbutt and buzzing bass dulcian. Best of all, though, is a motet, not sung a cappella but with solo soprano floridly decorating the top line above four sackbutts – raising workmanlike music far above the ordinary. George Pratt