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In Festo Sanctissimae Trinitatis
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1555-1612)
In ecclesiis à 14 [7:15]
Canzona seconda à 6 [3:49]
Benedictus es Dominus à 8 [4:44]
Confitebor tibi Domine à 13 (in tre cori) [5:26]
Benedicta sit sancta trinitas [5:15]
Canzon decimasettima à 12 (in tre cori) [3:40]
Jubilate Deo à 10 [4:47]
Canzon settima à 7 [3:26]
Domine Dominus noster à 8 (in due cori) [3:44]
Canzon per sonar primi toni à 8 (in due cori) [3:47]
Dulcis Jesu patris imago - Sonata con voce à 20 [6:49]
Canzon seconda (a due organi di legno) [2:50]
Omnes gentes à 16 (in quattro cori) [3:17]
Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585)
Toccata ottava (organo da chiesa) [1:42]
Ricercar quinto tono (organo da chiesa) [2:55]
Rosa Dominguez (soprano); Eric Mentzel (alto); Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor); Stephan Van Dyck (tenor)
La Fenice; Chœur de Chambre de Namur/Jean Tubéry
rec. 5–8 July, 1998, Église Saint-Apollinaire de Bolland, Belgium. DDD
RICERCAR RIC259 [63:35]
Experience Classicsonline

The music of Andrea (uncle) and Giovanni (nephew) Gabrieli is often described as grand, solemn, magnificent, majestic, splendid. With a minimum of self-consciousness, La Fenice and the Namur Chamber Choir confirm every one of these appropriate adjectives in an hour of brilliant sacred choral music making on this reissue from Ricercar.
There is a risk that such extrovert qualities might be all that one hears – or at least that chords-to-impress make the more lasting impression: the sun reflecting from the brass and not the former’s warmth, or the latter’s true colours. So it’s significant and gratifying that both instrumentalists and singers on this recording bring out the subtleties of the music… nuanced rhythms, delicate textures and a range of tempi from the wistful (listen to the opening In ecclesiis, for example, tr.1) through the hesitatingly joyous (Canzona seconda à 6, tr.2) to the heavy-hearted (Benedictus es Dominus tr.3).
The lion’s share of the music here is by Giovanni, with under five minutes – just two pieces – by Andrea. It’s all music that was played as part of the celebrations held in St Mark’s, Venice, every year between Christmas and Whitsun. Inevitably, the glory of La Serenissima was being shown off in these expansive and opulent pieces every bit as much as the God to whom they were ostensibly directed was being venerated. That’s not to say that the nice variety of forms here in any way lacks conviction or weight. The sense of devotion is almost palpable.
The music is thoughtful as well as forthright, humble in its way - there is as much introspection as there is spectacle. And confidently played. La Fenice, Namur chamber choir and Tubéry are well aware of the need to exude judicious self-confidence in their performance. And do.
In particular, these works for the Feast of the Holy Trinity clearly took the acoustics of St. Mark’s into account - and possibly the dispositions of singers and players within that Basilica. Likewise they probably acknowledged and adhered to the musical tastes of the current Doge. We can say, in fact, that local allegorical traditions - the closeness to the lagoon, the particular enemies with which The Republic engaged at any one time of its history, for example - played a decisive part in the tenor of music composed here; adaptations in liturgical practice were made to reflect these preoccupations.
These forces under Jean Tubéry capture such musical priorities very well. In their playing there is indeed a serenity and unrushed nature. Though no dragging of momentum lets the music falter; successive melodic ideas all unfold at their own pace and reveal the depths of Gabrieli’s marriage of music to belief on a scale that has much more to do with beauty than bombast.
There are over a dozen motets and canzoni etc on this CD. They are rich in sound painting as well … discords for evil; different tessiture to convey personality; harmony and rhythm in the service of ecstatic climaxes and so on. Similarly, there is symbolism: mostly triple forces corresponding to the Trinity – in Canzon decimasettima, for example, tr.8. Such effects would be easy to overdo. These musicians never come close to falling into that trap, though. Their playing, rather, is spare; yet expressive and communicative. Such a high level of intensity is almost inevitable with such dramatic and public music. But it is not tiring on the ear.

There are just a couple of occasions when the overlay of choral singing upon the organ becomes slightly diminished in focus; not muddy – just a little under driven. This should not detract, though, from what is first class music-making. The acoustic could be a little more resonant; maybe that’s a deliberate decision not to over-dramatise. The accompanying notes are helpful and contain the texts in prose form.
Mark Sealey


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