A New Venetian Coronation 1595
Track listing at end of review
Mark Chambers (falsetto); David Allsopp (falsetto); Richard Butler (tenor); Eamonn Dougan (baritone); William Gaunt (bass); Greg Skidmore (baritone); Jan Waterfield (organ); William Whitehead (organ)
Gabrieli Consort and Players/Paul McCreesh
rec. 28-29 February, 1 March, 2012, Douai Abbey, Berkshire, England. DDD
SIGNUM SIGCD287 [73:55]
In 1990 the Gabrieli Consort and Players released a spectacular - and spectacularly successful - CD. It recreated a sequence of music as it might have been heard on the occasion of the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani at the end of the sixteenth century. A Venetian Coronation 1595 originally appeared on Virgin Veritas 91110. That recording - which won the Gramophone early music award for that year - is currently available on Virgin Classics Special Import 59006. In many people's eyes it gave a good overall introduction to the consort music of uncle and nephew Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, who both served as organists at St. Marks in Venice.
This year (2012) Paul McCreesh, the Gabrieli Consort and Players' conductor, felt it useful to repeat yet update the experience. To quote from their website it is time to 'look at the historical and instrumental developments since the original recording'. In the first place, it's hard to believe that that first 'Venetian Coronation' CD was McCreesh and the Consort and Players' actual first CD; they're now so well established and respected. As a concept - the historically-informed recreation - and execution (brass, keyboards and single violin) it was a significant achievement. It’s probably still a favourite in the CD collection of many an ('early') music lover.
For 'A New Venetian Coronation 1595' McCreesh celebrates the advances made since 1990 in scholarship and performance practice. One has to suppose, furthermore, that such a reprise is more likely almost 25 years on to be taken up and celebrated without fuss by enthusiasts: they're now more demanding in and of such repertoire. 'A New Venetian Coronation 1595' represents an excellent hour and ten minutes' worth of delightful music played with great style. It's also sufficiently distinct from the earlier CD to be worth buying in its own right.
Sources have been revisited and their understanding deepened by McCreesh and co. Technology - in use and restoration of instruments and in recording and editing - has played a large part too in producing a collection of two and a half dozen or so beautifully-played works. This time their innate power to move and inspire has taken precedence over effect and impact. The intricacies of Giovanni Gabrieli's lovely Canzona a 10 [tr.24], for instance, are gentler in tone and articulation than anything on the earlier collection. The works to be heard are not identical on each CD. McCreesh seems to have less to prove. We are more used to this music now. McCreesh is offering it to us with no less seriousness and sense of occasion. Surely we hear it now more nearly as it would have been heard by those celebrating the coronation in 1595.
The two CDs last about the same time, though this later one has more actual pieces. You will be struck immediately by the wider expressiveness, greater closeness with the spirit of the music. Listen to the melancholy - even the Doge is mortal? - harmonies of the poignant Canzona a 15 [tr.19] also by Giovanni. Each phrase is lovingly conjured up from the lagoon and left to dissipate there once it's been heard. It's one of the longer pieces at four and a half minutes. The integrity and familiarity which McCreesh brings to the enterprise ensures that this no disjointed experience. This is accomplished even though choral works, plainchant, instrumental and ensemble pieces come in sequence.
The splendour and glory of the climax, starting with the dignity of Andrea Gabrieli's Communion: O sacrum convivium a 5 [tr.23], through Gussago's Sonata La Leona [tr.26] and Giovanni Gabrieli's Omnes Gentes [tr.27] are stunning and uplifting. This is achieved without being empty or over rhetorical.
Nicholas Perry, cornett, sackbut and serpent player for the Gabrielis, uses the same treble cornett that he used in the original recording. He had stopped using it between 1990 and now; it had begun to rot. Yet he has re-varnished it and got it back into playable condition again. A group of Italian instruments which played well despite continuing apparent inconsistencies in design was copied and used for this recording.
Indeed, McCreesh describes advances in mouthpieces made with the advantage that they produce a sound closer to that of a true cornett and less like a 'bad tenor trombone'. It's obvious that McCreesh and his forces have had the luxury of being able to experiment more than perhaps they did nearly a quarter of a century ago. An example can be heard in the use of the tenor cornett as a substitute for the alto sackbut.
Trumpet fanfares and toccatas were researched by Peter Downey with Paul McCreesh. A second copy of Cesare Bendinelli's 'Trumpet Method' at the Austrian National Library in Vienna reinforces our appreciation of just how influential Bendinelli was. It's also been possible to cross-check manuscripts. Sources previously thought destroyed during World War II now explain how trumpets and drums were played during their introduction into music for the forty years after the date of the coronation. This is another example of authenticity augmented. At the same time more persuasive and pleasing colours and textures emerge.
Collectors of music by these composers will not want to add 'A New Venetian Coronation' for the sake of filling out their shelves. Those who are curious about such events in Venetian history, who maintain even a passing interest in almost any area of 'early' music, and certainly who bought and/or enjoyed the original CD should not hesitate to get this later disc. This is music-making of the highest order.
The acoustic is good, clear and resonant. Though it's not that of San Marco, which is a pity. In the first track or so, to the bells and music are added 'atmospheric' ambient sounds. A simple yet nicely-produced booklet is bound into the hardback and embossed container which carries the CD. It holds a mass of useful background on the actual ducal event, its significance and the musicians' approach to this - and the earlier - recreation. It's hard to imagine anyone remaining unmoved or not uplifted by this music.
Mark Sealey

see also review by Johan van Veen

A highly engaging significantly updated reprise of the landmark recording in 1990; hard to imagine anyone remaining unmoved. 

Track listing

[The Procession]
Hans-Leo HASSLER (1564-1612)
Intrada tertia/sexta/septima (1601)/
Cesare BENDINELLI (?-1617)
Trumpet Sonata No. 333 (1614) [8:20]
[The Mass]
Giovanni GABRIELI (1554/57-1612)
Toccata 2. tono (1593) [2:02]
Benedicta sit sancta Trinitas [4:24]
[Arrival of the Doge]
Toccata 26 (1614) [1:01]
Intonazione 1. tono (1593) [0:30]
Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585)
Kyrie à 5 (1587) [1:59]
Christe à 8 (1587) [2:13]
Kyrie à 12 (1587) [3:29]
Gloria à 16 (1587) [5:02]
[Collect] [1:23]
[Epistle] [1:05]
Canzona XIII à 12 (1597) [2:48]
[Gospel] [2:03]
Intonazione 7. tono (1593) [1:14]
Deus qui beatum Marcum à 10 (1597) [2:51]
[Preface] [3:06]
Sanctus and Benedictus à 12 (1587) [3:40]
Sarasinetta 2 (1614) [1:01]
Canzona XVI à 15 (1597) [4:34]
Pater noster [2:02]
Agnus Dei [1:25]
Intonazione 5. tono alla quarta bassa (1593) [0:42]
O sacrum convivium à 5 (1565) [3:59]
Canzona IX à 10 (1597) [4:23]
[Post Communon Prayer] [1:58]
Cesario GUSSAGO (fl c1599-1612)
Sonata La Leona (1608) [2:15]
Omnes gentes à 16 (1597) [4:26]