ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Venetian Vespers
WORKS: First Vespers of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin: music by Monteverdi, Rigatti, Grandi, Cavalli,
PERFORMER: Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
CATALOGUE NO: 459 457-2 Reissue (1993)
The extraordinary diversity of choral and instrumental music associated with St Mark’s, Venice, poses special challenges for those wishing to record this repertoire. Both these discs offer informed and idiomatically stylish music-making, but in programmes of very different quality.
The Taverner Consort’s colourful and varied selection highlights the wide stylistic range of the St Mark’s music in an apparently disparate sequence. Nonetheless, reverberant recordings create a pleasingly spacious atmosphere for Gabrieli’s In ecclesiis and Magnificat, Lotti’s agonisingly expressive settings of the Crucifixus, Grandi’s and Monteverdi’s florid monodies and Vivaldi’s concertante Clarae stellae, scintillate.
By contrast, McCreesh’s brilliant reconstruction of a 1643 Vespers for the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin creates an altogether more satisfying musical and spiritual experience. Aided by superb acoustics, the Gabrieli Consort’s powerfully dramatic account of the liturgy – with psalm settings by Monteverdi, Rigatti and Cavalli and evocative plainsong chanting in the antiphons – is an outstanding achievement. Nicholas Rast