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Musica Vaticana
Giuseppe Ottavio PITONI (1657-1743)
Motet: Dixit Dominus [9.40]
Roland de LASSUS (1532-1594)
Motet: Domine quid multiplicati sunt (publ. 1604) [5.31]
Vincenzo UGOLINI (1570-1638)
Missa Beata es Virgo Maria
(1622) [19.43]
Giovanni de MACQUE (c.1550-1614)
Ave Regina Caelorum
Orazio BENEVOLI (1605-1672)
Motets: O sacramentum pietatis [4.59]
Laudate pueri Dominum [5.24]
Juravit Dominum [4.15]
Francesco SORIANO (1549-1621)
In dedicatione templi
Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal/Christopher Jackson
rec. church of Saint-Augustine, Mirabel, Quebec, Canada, 9-13 January 2009
ATMA CLASSIQUE ACD2 2508 [57.05]  

Experience Classicsonline

I had never heard of Studio de Musique Ancienne who are based in Montréal, but I am very glad that I have made their acquaintance via this interesting CD.
The CD is subtitled ‘Polychoral Music at St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome’. You may associate this style with Venice but how wrong could you be. Pope Julius II - he of Michelangelo fame - gave the papal choir the name of ‘Capella Giulia’. Under the direction of composers like Palestrina it built up a huge and even now, mostly unexplored repertoire, some of it even earlier than the Gabrielis.
Unusually I will quote a large portion of the accompanying essay by François Filiatrault. The ‘stile antico’ was the style of most the 16th Century and we are told that it “was evolving towards a Baroque ideal, towards a Roman version of the concertante style … We hear … frequent change of rhythms, which are often based on dances, and more marked contrast of musical imagery borrowed from the madrigalists.” Nowhere is this most noticeable than in the longest work recorded here the twelve-part, three-choirMissa Beata es Virgo Maria by Ugolini who directed the choir between 1620-1626. Even in the Kyrie he moves a little into a dancing triple tempo. The Credo is much the longest movement and is full of word-painting and imaginative contrasts of all sorts. The Benedictus is a delightful movement, enhanced by the instrumental work of harp, violin and cello with organ adding a colour and support.
However, and this brings me to a sad gripe, despite the fact that we are told that the ‘stile antico’ is full of strong contrasts, the performance both of this Mass and elsewhere on the disc, though beautiful and elegant is somewhat withheld and understated. It lacks attack, a sense of excitement and danger that some sections demand. Sadly it can be a bit too bland.
The earliest composer represented is Orlando de Lassus. He worked briefly at St. John’s Lateran church in Rome. The motet Domine, quid multiplicata, a setting of Psalm 3, is one of only two by this most prolific of composers for triple choir. It is a sonorous and mostly homophonic piece which is sung with a certain amount of passion. The booklet notes tell us that the final passage is “especially notable for its richness and intensity” in which all of “the voices combine in a vigorous tutti”. Again I don’t quite feel that this is sufficiently brought out in this performance.
This style of performance comes off beautifully however in the calm and serenely conversational setting of the Ave Regina caelorum by de Macque. This was published in Rome when the composer was in his mid-forties and working there.
It has to be admitted that most of these composers are not household names even amongst keen musicians. That also apples to the three remaining figures. Francesco Soriano brought to Rome “the revolution of Monteverdi”. He was, it seems, one of the first to use basso continuo, so clearly audible in this recording, with voices. You can hear this in his adulatory motet In dedicatione templi. The three choirs rebound and resound to the words ‘Glory to you GOD/The sweet sounds resounded’.
With Orazio Benevoli we have moved more clearly into the baroque era. In the motet Laudate pueri Dominum (Psalm 113) we are also still in the world of cori spezzati as this amazing piece is for four antiphonal choirs. The other motets are definitely of the ‘secondo prattica’. The curious text of O Sacramentum pietatis is set for two sopranos with continuo and Juravit Dominum just sets two lines from Psalm 109 in a very showy way for four solo sopranos. This comes off exceptionally well.
It’s curious in some ways that the disc should start with the most modern piece on the CD, the sixteen voice setting of Psalm 110 the Dixit Dominus by Pitoni set at about the same time by Handel. Pitoni’s setting is glorious, especially the declamations of the middle section and its coruscating and highly contrapuntal final bars. It certainly makes a lively and positive beginning to the programme. Most of this composer’s work lies languishing in the Vatican archives; more’s the pity after you have heard this powerful setting.
So, as can often be the case in the early music choral world, a bit of a mixed bag, but certainly worth exploring.
Gary Higginson 



















































































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