Gregorio ALLEGRI (1582-1652)
Missa in Lectulo Meo [27.25]
Miserere mei Deus [12.18]
Motet: Christus resurgens ex mortuis [4.07]
Missa Christus resurgens ex mortuis [22.47]
Pierre BONHOMME (c.1555-1617)
Motet: In Lectulo Meo [3.32]
The Choir of King’s College, London/David Trendell
Simon Hogan (organ continuo)
rec. 14-16 June 2011, St. John’s Church, Upper Norwood, London
DELPHIAN DCD 34103 [72.15]
I suspect that the only times when you might think of Gregorio Allegri might
be on Ash Wednesday or, more correctly in Holy Week when his (in)famous Miserere
is performed in many churches and cathedrals and broadcast on Choral Evensong.
In fact there is much more to this man than that curiosity.
The young voices of King’s College, London, who must have been coming
afresh to this rare music, are alert and alive to the music’s subtle nuances.
They are pictured in the booklet in their distinguished black robes. Their conductor
David Trendell extracts some very passionate and committed singing.
Their programme begins with the premiere recording of Missa In Lectulo Meo.
The Kyrie alternates plainchant with polyphony. This is a parody mass
in eight parts using portions and melodies of a motet by one Pierre Bonhomme
(or Bonomi), a Roman composer and singer. His motet appears in a Vatican manuscript.
Trendell, who has also written the very informative notes, makes the unusual
move of placing this motet between the Credo and Sanctus on the
CD. A good idea this and one I have not met before, although as one can programme
things nowadays I would suggest that you listen to the motet first. The text
is from The Song of Songs, that almost erotic book from the Old Testament.
It begins ‘In my bed by night I sought him whom my soul loveth’.
The motet is antiphonal almost throughout as is much of the mass; listen especially
to the extraordinarily long Kyrie. There is nothing untoward in this
music. The sound is opulent and very much of the ‘stile antico’
- a little out of fashion coming as it did well into the 17th century. One curiosity
is the Agnus, which is short and only runs to the one acclamation ending
with ‘miserere nobis’.
Imagine being famous for one work, very famous in fact, but when you are invited
to hear the work, it bears little resemblance to your original intentions. In
fact it may be even better. That is what has seemingly happened to Allegri’s
well-known nine-part Miserere. As a boy I recall the frisson of excitement.
The top Cs were shared around between say three of us. Would I be the one to
fluff my lines or be the best at sailing gladly into the famous rising fourth
and making it ring out through the church whilst my friends screeched their
efforts with tiring diaphragmatic control. In the polite world of King’s
College I’m sure that there is no such rivalry between Marie Macklin and
Poppy Ewence who find the ozone layer conducive on every occasion even if there
can be detected the occasional, and inevitable slight scoop.
If, like me, you have the Henry Washington edition of this piece (Chester, 1976)
then you will notice that some of the chanted speech rhythms are a little different.
The antiphonal plainchant is not only allotted to a tenor soloist but also the
usual chant is not used. I’m pleased to say that the booklet tells us
of the editions used on this disc and the one here is published by OUP.
There are five surviving masses by Allegri. The Venetian style is even more
clear in the Easter Mass Christus resurgens,a parody of the composer’s
own motet which is again heard after the Creed. Both are again in eight parts
and therefore offer a chance for much declamatory imitation and exciting scalic
patterns. Oddly enough the Christe and the Benedictus are not
set so plainchant is interpolated on this recording, which is probably what
Allegri would have expected. There are also sections in triple time for instance
the Gloria deo patris which ends the Gloria, the Et resurrexit
in the Credo and later towards the end of the movement in the Et in
spiritum sanctum and in the Sanctus for the Hosannas. In all
of these I just wish the choir would let the music lift a little more and be
more dance-like. The Mass is succinct as the Council of Trent had decreed
over fifty years previously but the moving two-fold Agnus dei points
to a baroque world of suspensions and part-writing not necessarily in Palestrina’s
harmony book. The choir is supported in this mass by the organ continuo, which
in such a celebratory work is quite in keeping.
This is a vibrant and exciting CD helped by an airy and spacious acoustic. It’s
certainly worth exploring both from the point of view of meeting a fine choir
and of encountering some fine and mostly unknown music.
Vibrant and exciting … certainly worth encountering some fine and mostly