RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643)
Missa In illo tempore: Kyrie [3:53] Gloria [5:59]
Salve Regina (II) a 3 [3:59]
Missa In illo tempore: Credo [10:20]
Salve Regina (III) a 3 [4:23]
Missa In illo tempore: Sanctus [3:42] Agnus Dei [5:16]
Regina caeli a 3* [3:30]
Cantate Domino a 6 [1:54]
Giaches DE WERT (1535-1596)
Fantasia per organo** [4:49]
Vox in Rama a 5 [3:36]
Ascendente Jesu a 6 [5:20]
Adesto dolori meo a 6 [3:10]
Nicolas GOMBERT (c.1495-c1560)
In illo tempore loquente Jesu a 6 [4:45]
Silvia Frigato* Barbara Zanichelli* (soprano); Gabriella Martellacci* (contralto);
Liuwe Tamminga** (organ)
Odhecaton/Paolo Da Col
rec. September 2011, Basilica di Santa Barbara, Mantua, Italy. DDD
RICERCAR RIC 322 [64:35]
With this disc we find ourselves in the Basilica di Santa Barbara in Mantua.
It was built between 1562 and 1565, and was to represent the splendour of the
Gonzagas - one of the most powerful families in Italy at the time. The Duke
of Mantua, Guglielmo Gonzaga, was "a pious and careful ruler keen to project
an image of himself as the True Christian Prince", according to Iain Fenlon
in his liner-notes. His piety was probably the reason that he received the papal
privilege to develop his own liturgy. It was quite different from the mainstream
and resulted in a specific liturgical repertoire. It is a matter of good luck
that this repertoire has been preserved almost complete and is now kept in the
Conservatory of Milan.
Two famous names in music history are connected to Mantua. Giaches de Wert,
born in Flanders and a representative of the Franco-Flemish school, entered
the service of Duke Guglielmo in 1565, just after the basilica had been finished.
Although he was responsible for liturgical music he has become mainly known
for his madrigals. No fewer than eight books were printed during his time in
Mantua. His motets which have been included in this recording bear witness to
his skills in this department, especially in the close connection between text
and music. Vox in Rama is one of his most famous motets. The text is
about the Massacre of the Innocents. The first line is expressed by all the
voices starting at the lower end of their tessitura and then rising an octave:
"A voice was heard in Rama, lamentation and bitter weeping". The piece contains
some strong dissonances. Ascendente Jesu delivers more specimens of eloquent
text expression. It is about Jesus sleeping in his disciples' ship when a storm
is brewing. "Behold, there was a movement in the waters, so great that the boat
was nearly lost in the waves". The movement of the waters is vividly illustrated,
which strongly contrasts with the long notes on the words "But he (Jesus) slept
on". After he has calmed the sea the motet ends with another passage with long
notes on the words "and there was a great calm". The contrast with the motet
by Nicolas Gombert, In illo tempore, is striking. He belonged to an earlier
generation of the Franco-Flemish school, and his music is almost devoid of text
The reason that this motet is included is that Claudio Monteverdi used it as
the cantus firmus of his Missa In illo tempore which is the main
work here. It was part of the collection which was printed in 1610 and is best-known
because of the inclusion of the Vespro della Beata Vergine. Monteverdi
was also at the service of the Duke of Mantua at the time Wert was there. One
of his most famous compositions, the opera L'Orfeo, was performed there,
and also his lost opera L'Arianna and the Ballo delle Ingrate.
He had been appointed as an instrumentalist at court in 1590/91 and wasn't supposed
to compose music for the liturgy. When Wert died in 1596 he was succeeded by
Benedetto Pallavicino. It was only after his retirement that Monteverdi was
given the job. It is quite possible that the music which was printed in 1610
was first performed at the basilica of Mantua.
At the time Monteverdi was considered a representative of the stile nuovo,
and he was the subject of strong criticism of the theorist Giovanni Maria Artusi.
Iain Fenlon suggests his Missa In illo tempore could have been written
as an answer on Artusi's attacks. In this mass he showed his mastery of the
stile antico, and as cantus firmus he took a motet by a then 'ancient'
composer who in his time was considered one of the greatest masters of counterpoint.
That doesn't necessarily indicate that this mass should be sung a cappella,
although today it is mostly performed that way. In this recording the lower
parts are supported by bass viol, violone, theorbo, harp and organ. That has
a positive effect as in ensembles like Odhecaton the upper voices tend to dominate.
The mass is interspersed by three pieces which have only recently been identified
as compositions by Monteverdi. They are from a collection which was printed
during 1662-67 by Alessandro Vincenti in Venice. Fenlon suggests that Monteverdi's
son Francesco could have been responsible for the publication. The two settings
of the Salve Regina are for three voices (two tenors and bass) with basso
continuo.They reflect the stile nuovo, as is shown by the daring harmonies
and the declamatory character of various passages. The third, another Marian
antiphon, Regina coeli, is in the same style, this time for three high
voices (two sopranos and alto) with basso continuo.
It wasn’t the best of decisions to put them between the sections
of the mass. That has everything to do with the acoustic of the basilica in
Mantua. It is rather unique that this recording took place in that large building,
because one would expect the large reverberation to cause all kinds of problems.
In his notes about the recording Jérôme Lejeune states that things
worked out much better than he had expected. During the mass the ensemble was
allocated at two opposing balconies, but to his surprise this hardly caused
any trouble in regard to coordination. "The section of the vaulting that links
the two galleries had clearly being designed for the best possible transmission
of sound between the two galleries. We realised that the microphones that had
been placed in the centre of the nave now gave an excellent image in sound,
one that was balanced and much clearer." The three sacred concertos are, however,
performed in the chantry at the lower end of the church. That causes a strong
acoustic contrast between these pieces and the mass. It is probably a good idea
to programme your CD player to play the mass first and then the three sacred
I strongly urge you to purchase this disc. No lover of Monteverdi's music would
want to miss the chance to hear three 'new' compositions by the great master.
Even the more general music-lover will greatly enjoy this recording. The interpretation
is brilliant, not only of the music by Monteverdi, but also of the motets by
Wert and Gombert which are outstanding in their own right. The venue of this
recording and the effects on the performance are quite exciting - additional
reasons to seek out this disc. Definitely worth the 'Recording of the Month'
Johan van Veen
I strongly urge you to purchase this disc.