Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Alessandro GRANDI (1586-1630) and Masters of the Italian Baroque
Motets by GRANDI:
Osculeture Me; Venite Filii; O intemerata a 2; Deus Misereatur Nostri; Ceacilia; O Dulce Nomen Jesu; Salvum me fac Domine a 2; Bone Jesu; Veni Sancte Spiritus; O Quam Speciosa; Instrumental works by: GRANDI Sonata terza; Carlo MILANUZZI (d.1647) Canzona 5; Giuseppe SCARANI Sonata Primo and Sonata Terza.
Musica Antiqua Praha directed by Pavel Kilkar
Recorded Czech Brethren Chapel, Prague, December 1993
SUPRAPHON SU 3017-2 931 [48.07]




Alessandro Grandi is a much-underestimated figure of the early baroque. He wrote mostly church music as represented here, but there are also accompanied madrigals and solo concertos. Among his appointments were positions as maestro di capella at St. Mark’s, Venice from 1620, where as a boy he had sung in the choir under Gabrieli, and later at Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo from 1627. Here he was happy he had a choir at his disposal "and instrumentalists, and enjoyed artistic freedom, all-round support and respect" (booklet notes by the director, Pavel Klakar). Sadly he died of the plague within three years of his appointment.

From about 1610, the year that Gabrieli died, his works started to be published. At first these were mostly motets for a few voices eg. ‘Caecilia’, and ‘Salvum me fac’. He further developed the genre of the solo motet with obbligato strings in his next publications. This is in the so-called ‘stile concertato’ which influenced many composers for the next three generations. Examples of this strand include Veni Sancte Spiritus and the longest work on the CD O Quam Speciosa. In these works the verse structure of a hymn like Veni Sancte is broken up by a passage for solo strings to give variety and length whereas in a work like Salvum fac me the text is quickly declaimed with minimal accompaniment from continuo, in these performances often chittarone and organ.

Grandi’s motets have featured on recordings before normally only in the context of his contemporaries especially Monteverdi whom he knew well. The counter-tenor Robin Blaze selects two early works on ‘Salve Regina’ (Hyperion CDA67225). Later more expressive and mannered motets can be heard on ‘Venice Preserv’d’, the Academy of Ancient Music ( L’Oiseau-Lyre 425 891-2) and on Venetian Vespers disc directed by Paul McCreesh (Archiv 437 552 –2). This then is the first time, to my knowledge, that Grandi has been able to stand by himself. Works from his second book of 1617, his third book of 1618, and four later publications, are chosen. In addition the motets Venite Filii, and Deus Miseratur are played, highly successfully, by instruments alone, so that with the four other instrumental works the disc is nicely balanced and one could play it straight through without too much of a sense of déja-vu. Not only that but the performances are quite beautiful and never jar. One moves from a work for a male soloist to one by a female or two females. There is constant variety and the whole plan is excellently worked out. There are in all six singers and no less than ten instrumentalists playing ‘authentic instruments’, as the cover boasts, but there is no list of the age of the instruments or of their makers. The performances are totally reliable and delightfully done. I especially enjoyed the string playing.

There is an adequate booklet essay translated into French and Czech but no texts are provided in any language. In addition at less than 50 minutes one might feel rather short-changed. I suspect that the recording was originally intended for the Eastern European LP market though the recording date rather does not sit well with that assumption.

To sum up: a series of very fine renderings of rare but important repertoire well worth getting to know.

Gary Higginson


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