Francesco CAVALLI (1602–1676)
Magnificat a sei voci (1650) [10.29]
Magnificat a otto voci (1656) [15.46]
Canzona a dieci (1656) [4.44]
Magnificat a otto voci - Vespero della Beata Vergine (1675) [5.18]
Magnificat a otto voci - Vespero delle Dominiche (1675) [6.57]
Magnificat a otto voci - Vespere delli Cinque Laudate (1675) [3.31]
Laetatus Sum a tre voci (1656) [9.06]
Canzona a dodici (1656) [3.56]
Dixit Dominus (1656) [11.56]
Coro Claudio Monteverdi; Ensemble La Pifarescha/Bruno Gini
rec. church of Abbadia Cereto, Italy 30 September–4 October 2008
DYNAMIC CDS 623 [71:48]

Whilst we are familiar with Monteverdi's sacred music that of his younger colleague Cavalli is less well known.

This disc offers us a selection of Cavalli's sacred music, notably five Magnificats covering a significant section of his career. In fact, the disc opens with a six-voiced Magnificat from the 1650 collection Messa a Quattro voci e salmi which was issued after Monteverdi's death.

The second Magnificat (for eight voices) on the disc comes from Cavalli's first major collection, Musiche sacre of 1656. Finally in 1675 he published a second collection, dedicated to the Doge of Venice. From this come the final three Magnificats, all for eight voices, taken from the Vespro della Beata Vergine Maria (Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary), the Vespro Delle Domeniche (Sunday Vespers) and Vespro delle Cinque Laudate which was for the use of the Capella San Marco.

To this collection of Magnificats is added two Psalm settings from the 1656 collection, plus two purely instrumental Canzonas.

The 1650 Magnificat is a relatively intimate work, using just soloists without choir, in a series of solos, duets and trios punctuated with solo tuttis. The 1656 Magnificat is the first of Cavalli's fully mature works on the disc. And here we are introduced to the full choir. The group uses nearly forty singers and they are recorded in a quite resonant acoustic, whereas the soli are recorded quite close.

The solo voices are taken from a group of nine. The first choir soloists are the standard soprano, alto, tenor and bass (Yetzabel Arias Fernandez, Andrea Arrivabene, Gianluca Ferrarini, Matteo Bellotto), whereas the second choir has a high counter-tenor on the top line and lower male altos on the second line (Florin Cezar Ouatu, Paolo Costa, Igor Denti, Mario Cecchetti, Gianluca Buratto).

The remaining Magnificats are substantial, nine-voiced works which mix the solo passages with choral ones and use the full resources of the double choir and instruments. The two Vespers psalm settings are quite substantial works both lasting around ten minutes. The two Canzonas for instruments only make a rather fine contrast.

Whilst the soloists are perhaps not great voices, they are all creditable stylists and having Florin Cezar Ouatu on the top line of the second choir gives the sound quite a distinctive timbre.

More problematic is the sound of the choir, their size and the way they are placed within the acoustic makes the choral contribution sound, frankly, rather soggy.

The singers are well supported by the instrumentalists who get to show what they are capable of in the two instrumental items. The whole is capably directed by Bruno Gini.

I wish I could be rather more enthusiastic about this disc. The repertoire is very tempting and the solo contributions are quite creditable, but the rather soggy contribution of the choir rather seeps into the whole. Do buy it, if the repertoire appeals but you won't quite get the crisp, vibrant music-making which this music deserves.

Robert Hugill

You won't quite get the crisp, vibrant music-making which this music deserves… see Full Review