Grandi, Marini, Aloisi, Rovetta & Merula

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Aloisi,Grandi,Marini,Rovetta & Merula
LABELS: ISIS
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Queen of Heavenly Virtue
WORKS: Sacred music for Henrietta Maria’s chapel in Oxford by Grandi, Marini, Aloisi, Rovetta & Merula
PERFORMER: Concertare/Jonathan Wainwright
CATALOGUE NO: CD 023
Alessandro Grandi is the central composer in this atmospheric evocation of the period of Charles I’s wife Queen Henrietta Maria’s residence at Merton College, Oxford in 1643/4. Excellently recorded in Merton Chapel itself, Wainwright’s elegantly conceived programme offers an appealing mix of sacred and secular themes, with groups of songs and motets framing the movements of a Mass. The performances are strongly characterised and thoughtful and, when the language is blatantly erotic, the musicians strike a deliciously seductive tone.

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I found the group that separates the Credo and Sanctus (tracks 10-12) especially effective, with the alluring refrains in O dulcis virgo and O Maria quam pulchra es underlining this music’s double-edged significance. The reference to ‘reparatorem saeculi’ (restorer of the world) in O dulcis virgo, for example, highlights the ironic parallel between the Virgin Mary and Queen Henrietta Maria (her earthly reflection) who was a focus of hope for the royalist cause.

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Concertare’s carefully controlled ensemble in the Mass movements provides a more restrained contrast to the sensuous Marian tributes, while other pieces, such as Francesco Marini’s Anima mea liquefacta est, make ardent declarations of faith. This is an altogether fascinating disc, which includes much previously unrecorded material. Warmly recommended. Nicholas Rast