Sacco, born in the
province of Foggia in 1572, is one of those Italian polyphonists
whose hold on the repertoire is tenuous. The hold rests entirely
on a single collection of sacred music, known to exist in three
copies, which forms the basis of this disc’s reconstruction
of a Marian liturgy.
Sacco, also known as Sacchi, held important
positions in the South, journeyed north to Rome to study at
Palestrina’s school – though it’s not definitively known if
he was a personal pupil of Palestrina’s. He eventually returned
to Cerignola in Foggia. This 1607 collection was published when
he was maestro di cappella at the cathedral of San Giacomo in
Viterbo. It’s notable for its use of a double choir with thorough
bass. Of more interest, maybe to the generalist, is the unaffected
and clear compositional style. It’s one that seems to owe a
clear debt to Palestrina but which manages to reserve a kind
of personal integrity of expression. It can’t perhaps be argued
that he attained the powerful command of other contemporaries
of the second generation of the Roman school – not least because
the Roman Polychoral School was at its blazing summit at around
this time. However Sacco’s (reconstructed) liturgy makes strong
powerfully impressive dignity in his setting of the Dialogus.
Polychoral mastery is in evidence throughout, and there’s no
straining for extraneous effect. There also technical prowess
in imitative phraseology. His sheer delicacy of setting is best
heard in the lovely Gloria of the 1607 Missa. And the accelerandi
and slowings down in the Litaniae Laurentanae are evidence
of a theatrical ear for movement and expressive effect. He certainly
ensures that important textual matter is highlit in the most
direct and yet unsimplistic way. The emotive heart of the Missa
setting is the Credo – the Et incarnatus est is particularly
moving – but the power of Sacco’s poignancy is everywhere evident.
Three moments of
cantus planus are here as well – the Graduale, Offertorium
and Communio. And for further variety we also have some organ
works by Paolo Quagliati (c.1555-1628). He was also part of
the migratory passage northwards, from Venice to Rome, where
he died. He was a technician of high quality if these few brief
examples are representative of his instrumental writing. It
would be good to hear more of his choral music.
These are groundbreaking
performances then. It’s becoming increasingly fashionable to
build CD programmes around reconstructed and newly edited Marian
masses but this one will be new to all but the most specialised
of scholars. The performances are warmly sympathetic, the voices
youthful and well blended, the direction athletic when necessary.
The recorded sound captures them well, as it does the organ.
Full texts and notes.