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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

‘Baroque for the Mass - Ursuline composers of the 17th Century’
Maria Xaveria PERUCHONA (c1652 ->1709)

Ad gaudia, ad lubila (1675) [6.04]
Regina Cæli (1675) [4.03]
Solvite Solvite (1675) [7.51]
Anna Isabella LEONARDA (1620-1704)

Ave suavis dilecto [7.45]
Andrea Folan, soprano; Roya Bauman, alto; Kirk Doughterty, tenor;
Brian Bookks and Deborah Howell, violins; Rob Haskins, continuo.
Recorded at Rochester U. Chapel, Rochester, NY, USA, July 1998 [DDD]
Messa Prima, Op 18 (1696) [41.38]
Schola Cantorum of the University of Arkansas, Jack Groh, conductor.
Two violins, cello, and organ: soloists not named.
Recorded at St. Paul’s Church, Fayetteville, AK, USA, February 1982 [ADD]
Notes in English. Latin texts with English translations included
LEONARDA LE 346 [67.16]


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The Isabella Leonarda Mass was issued on LP in 1983 and is here re-released on CD with additional newly recorded music. The reviews from that original issue are printed on the liner notes: ‘ inspired composer ... [the] Mass for four soloists and chorus abounds in spontaneous individual touches ...Throughout the Mass she breathes new life into the familiar texts ... glowing, deeply felt performance.’ (Rupert W. Crumb, The New Records, April 1983). I would agree with Mr. Crumb’s superlatives. It is a fine work; one which should be available. Anyone who loves music from this period will enjoy this performance very much.

However the little dots on the review excerpt quoted above may hide some interesting things, particularly considering that ‘glowing’ can sometimes mean ‘not terribly bright.’ The Arkansas performers, who have toured and won awards and played at Kennedy’s White House, are, in a word, amateurs, and it shows. The chorus manages all the right notes by keeping to an unvarying, strict, at times pedestrian, tempo. The soloists, drawn from the chorus, range from very good to adequate. I think the quality of the music and the commitment of the performers has resulted in a fine recording, one I am happy to have heard. You may not be so forgiving.

The moral of this story is that if professional musicians cannot be induced to record important music, aren’t we fortunate that somebody will take the trouble to lead us through it? Surely most will agree that a slightly out of focus view is better than no view at all. Another alternative is to present a computer aided synthesizer recording, and that is also being done now, with generally good results. Although there still is some way to go before the human singing voice can be adequately synthesized electronically, progress in that area is also being made.

In the meantime we have this fine recording as a way of experiencing some worthwhile music. The Peruchona and Isabella Leonarda motets are performed brightly and with verve, professionalism and enthusiasm. The sound balance is excellent. The works have been compared to Monteverdi, and I would agree with that and add the best of Buxtehude as well.

Paul Shoemaker

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