Andrea Gabrieli was the uncle of the more famous Giovanni.
He was a pupil of Willaert and served under him at St. Mark’s, Venice,
as a singer, later becoming one of its organists. He wrote much for
choir and for organ and was famous throughout Europe. The post of organist
of the "Most Serene Venetian Republic" was much coveted and
placed Gabrieli in a position of great prestige. He dedicated the Psalmi
Davidici to Pope Gregory XIII, maybe to consolidate his position?
The differences between this work and those of his
nephew are immediately apparent; not for Andrea the declaiming brass
and pomp of the Venetian festivals. Rather here there is a contemplative
inward-looking religious tract, such as was suitable for presentation
to His Holiness the Pope. The work is scored for 8 voices (2 sopranos,
contralto, counter-tenor, 2 tenors, baritone and bass) and an ensemble
of 8 instruments (cornet, 2 trombones, bassoon, 3 viols - soprano, tenor
and bass, and organ). In this recording, period instruments (or copies)
are used throughout.
The standard of playing and singing is high in all
the items, the interpretation is apt and restrained, and the recording
is excellent. The booklet is well written in four languages (Latin,
English, German and Italian) and is explanatory and well produced. So,
why can I not feel more enthusiastic about this issue? The first reason
has to be the surroundings; the Abbazio Benedettina has a marked echo
and this is prominent enough to cause quite severe muffling of the words.
This is exacerbated by the abounding counterpoint. Even with the text
in front of me, I had great difficulty in following the words. The other
pre-disposing factor is the singing which, while delightfully smooth,
allows one word to slip into another. I found myself losing interest
after the third track - everything seemed so much alike. Having said
this, the performing of all these psalms at one sitting is unlikely
to have happened in Gabrieli’s day, and is not the best way to hear
them - better in the context of a church service. Even at mid-price,
I cannot warm to this disc; it is pleasant, but rather predictable,
and in the final balance I must say boring.