SALVE REGINA Sacred music by Monteverdi and his
Giovanni ROVETTA Salve Regina;
Alessandro GRANDI Amo Christum,
Ave maris Stella; Biagio MARINI
Sonata 'per sonar con due corde';
Francesco MARINI Jesu dulcis
memoria; Dario CASTELLA Exultate
deo; Claudio MONTEVERDI Iam moriar
mi filli (Pianto della Madonna) Giovanni
RIGATTI Cum invocarium; Nunc Dimittis;
Giovanni LEGRENZI Sonata in G major
'La Pezzoli'; O mirandum mysterium;
Johann ROSENMULLER Ascendit Christus
Robin Blaze (counter-tenor)/The
Parley of Instruments/Peter Holman
Recorded at St. Jude's on the Hill London, June 2000
HYPERION CDA 67225
This is the latest CD recorded by Peter Holman and the Parley of Instruments
who are regular recording artists with Hyperion. The six instrumentalists
play two renaissance violins, two renaissance violas, a bass violin, a therbo
and Holman himself plays organ continuo. It is important to know likewise
that the pitch chosen here is the fairly usual at present, A=440Hz - the
pitch which they have used for each of their CDs.
This repertoire has a somewhat rarefied and unique atmosphere. It is a survey
of the rich and still little known music for solo male alto with strings.
Venetian churches were, in common with other centres "using castrati and
falsettists rather than boys to sing the upper parts in church music, and
so there is a wealth of material from the period suitable for modern
countertenors". (Peter Holman in the excellent CD booklet).
It seems that it was Alessandro Grandi (died 1630), who, at St.Mark's
Venice with Monteverdi, was the first to established this new style of sacred
concerto. I was particularly drawn to Grandi's Ave Maris Stella with
its ingenious dance-like variation of the well-known melody (used by Monteverdi
himself in the 1610 Vespers).
Dario Castella is known only for his instrumental sonatas and this
setting of the Exultate is his only surviving vocal composition,
published, like this entire repertoire in Venice. This lovely piece was published
in 1625 and therefore has the earliest publication date of any on this CD.
The last piece was published as late as 1692 - Legrenzi 'O
mirandum'. Curiously it is not easy to detect much of a change of style
throughout the almost 70 years represented. One characteristic however which
is not surprising when one considers the development of instrumental music
in general in the 17th Century, is the gradual move towards the
greater importance of the strings and continuo. In the Castello they
are mainly responsible for accompanying the voice, with just simple two bar
phrases dividing up the occasional sentence. By the time we reach
Rosenmuller's Ascension tide motet (unpublished, but dating from the
1670s) we find the instruments not only opening the piece with a bright,
cheerful prelude but also making regular appearances throughout the work,
sometimes closing lines cadentially, sometimes echoing the voice, sometimes
adding strong down-beat chords to emphasis the joyous rhythm. The organ continuo
is left alone to accompany the voice on other occasions, as in the section
beginning 'Aeterne Rex'. There are also two attractive instrumental
works on this disc which demonstrate what composers could achieve at this
time without the text to concern them. Legrenzi's Sonata is particularly
The two central works on the disc are Monteverdi's 'Iam Moria'
and Rigatti's 'Cum invocarem' (published 1646) both are well
over 10 mins long. I had forgotten what a good composer Rigatti is. I first
came across him on a disc of 'Venetian Vespers' recorded by Paul McCreesh
and the Gabrieli Consort in 1990 (Archiv 437552-22). He was Monteverdi's
successor at St. Mark's, and there is a wonderful section at about three
minutes in, which seems to be built on the same falling bass as Monteverdi's
famous Lamento della Ninfa from book 8 of the Madrigals, possibly
written only 10 years before.
Speaking of Monteverdi brings us to the extraordinary Iam moriar which
is prefaced by an innocent instrumental prelude and then proceeds to a
transcription, or more technically a contrafactum, of the master's famous
'Lamento d'Arianna' from the otherwise lost opera 'Arianna'.
This Lament opens the Sixth book of madrigals of 1614. With its sacred text
it was published in 1641 with Monteverdi's 'Selva morale'. It is not
clear who made the adaptation. The curious text is a Lament of Mary at the
foot of the cross and is a mixture of Latin and Italian. Its operatic type
accompaniment is almost entirely on theorbo, with strings acting as a ritornello
between verses. This idea seems to have been Holman's but it works and seems
to me perfectly in keeping, even dare I say, authentic, although the original
ritornellos do not survive. The ones used are from 'Il ritorna d'Ulisse'
of 1641. This work is very demanding for Robin Blaze with often a high tessitura
and passionate delivery needed, which he carries off superbly. Generally
his voice is ideal, sometimes I feel that he is a little too chaste and more
characteristic of a cathedral lay-clerk as in Rigatti's 'Nunc
Dimittis' but these complaints are almost churlish and I would recommend
this disc to anyone with a love for baroque vocal music.