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Classical Editor
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Seen & Heard
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The Renaissance of Italian Music
Track list at end of review
EMI CLASSICS 088789-2 [77:30 + 76:28]

Experience Classicsonline

Let no one say that EMI do not recycle. The recording featured here of the Missa Papae Marcelli recently appeared on an all-Palestrina double-disc, reviewed here. At about the same time, the other three Palestrina works came out, appropriately enough, on an EMI Encore CD, reviewed here. Then this version of Monteverdi's Vespers and the three items from his Selva Morale e Spirituale all appeared on EMI Classics' 'Great Recordings of the Century' series - see review. And this recording of Allegri's Miserere appeared even more recently, on yet another EMI compilation - including also the same Monteverdi Beatus Vir - bearing the post-modern title 'Essential Renaissance': again, see review. And those are only a selection of previous incarnations!
Yet as all those reviews make clear, there can be no complaints, to put it mildly, about the quality of the music on offer here, written by giants of the Italian Renaissance. Nor about the credentials of the performers, which are all but immaculate - some of the biggest names in early music, as much today as two or three decades ago. In fact, so star-studded is the line-up that many find themselves omitted from the back cover, their names appearing only in the small print of the track listing inside the book: names like Stephen Cleobury, who conducts Allegri's Miserere, with Gerald Finley as Cantor, or Emma Kirkby, who appears twice in the Monteverdi works. These are all top-class performances recorded in sympathetic acoustic environments.
Before placing an order, however, the prospective buyer should consider the following points. Firstly, Monteverdi's masterpiece, the Vespro della Beata Vergine, has been edited down to "excerpts". The bleeding chunks are substantial, but around still an hour's worth of music is missing. Monteverdi's own anthology, Selva Morale e Spirituale, is even less complete, with only three items heard here, though in fairness the Selva was never intended to be performed as a single work.
Second, these are fairly old EMI recordings, all of which are still available in various previous editions over the internet, often at good prices. Another factor related to the age of the recordings is that performance scholarship has inevitably moved on from as was in the Seventies, Eighties or even Nineties. That does not necessarily invalidate any of these interpretations, of course, but the collector in particular should be aware that some of the choices made by directors like Andrew Parrott are likely to have been 'updated' in current recordings - albeit in Parrott and the Taverner Consort's case, they have not re-recorded these works. The above-noted reviews and others discuss some of these issues.
Yet EMI have an ace. This release coincides with a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at London's National Gallery, on whose website the book is also on sale, and the 'jewel case' here really is a gem: a lavishly illustrated hardback book running to more than 60 sides. The first few pages are occupied by a detailed track listing, a fairly brief essay on the work, the full sung texts in Latin with an English translation, another short essay on Renaissance art, and then around twenty colour plates, each with descriptive texts opposite: a mini-exhibition of some of the greatest paintings of the era (of all time, indeed), not just by Leonardo, but also by the likes of Raphael, Michelangelo, Tintoretto and others.
In the end, those looking for something from the purely musical side of the Renaissance are better served elsewhere, not least by these very recordings on previous - and probably future - EMI releases. But as far as gifts for loved ones with a growing interest in this magnificent era for the arts, this may be a nice little investment: two jam-packed CDs and a pocket set of prints for less than a cup of tea and a plate of sandwiches and pastries in the National Gallery's café.
Collected reviews and contact at

Track list

Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (c.1525-1594)
Missa 'Papae Marcelli' [32:58]
Beatus es, Virgo Maria [2:57]
Hodie gloriosa semper Virgo Maria [4:36]
Magnificat, septimi toni [12:53]
Andrea GABRIELI (c.1533-1585)
#Kyrie, a 12 [3:08]
#Gloria, a 16 [5:09]
#Sanctus & Benedictus, a 12 [3:44]
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1555-1612)
#Omnes Gentes, a 16 [4:23]
*Dulcis Jesu, a 20 [7:35]
*O Jesu mi Dulcissime, a 8 [4:53]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
*Vespro della Beata Vergine (excerpts) [39:06]
*Beatus vir [8:57]
*Jubilet tota civitas [4:40]
*Salve Regina [5:49]
Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652)
Miserere [13:01]
Choir of King's College, Cambridge/David Willcocks (Palestrina - Missa)
Choir of Clare College, Cambridge/Timothy Brown (Palestrina - rest)
Gerald Finley (cantor), Timothy Beasley-Murray (treble solo)
Choir of King's College, Cambridge/Stephen Cleobury (Allegri)
#David Hurley, Robert Harre-Jones (falsetti)
#Charles Pott, Peter Harvey (baritones)
#Charles Daniels (tenor)
#Gabrieli Consort & Players/Paul McCreesh
*Emma Kirkby, Tessa Bonner, Emily van Evera (sopranos)
*Joseph Cornwell, Nigel Rogers, Andrew King (tenors)
*Charles Daniels, Nicholas Robertson (tenors)
*Rogers Covey-Crump (tenor alto)
*David Thomas (bass)
*Taverner Consort, Choir & Players/Andrew Parrott
Recorded (DDD except +ADD): King's College Chapel, Cambridge, 27-29 July 1970 (Willcocks)+
Lady Chapel, Ely Cathedral, 8-10 January 1996 (Brown)
Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland, England, July 1989 (McCreesh).
St. John at Hackney, London, 24-28 November 1990 (Parrott - Gabrieli)
All Saints, Tooting, London, 15-19 August 1983 (Parrott - Vespro)
Temple Church, Temple, London, 6-9 December 1982 (Parrott - Selva)
Chapel of King's College, Cambridge, 18-20 July 1983 (Cleobury).

























































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