Giovanni Paolo COLONNA (1637 Ė 1695) Laudate Dominum (1672) [5.04]
Giacomo Antonio PERTI (1661 Ė 1756) Messa a 12 (1687) [32.29]; Sinfonia avanti la serenata [3:46]; Plaudite Mortales (1678) [6.09]
Elena Bertuzzi (soprano); Francesca Cassinari (soprano); Sonia Tedla (soprano); Jacopo Facchini (alto); Francesco Giusti (alto); Raphael Mas (alto); Alberto Allegrezza (tenor); Michele Concato (tenor); Baltazar Zuniga (tenor); Carlo Bonarelli (bass); Gabriele Lombardi (bass); Abramo Rosalen (bass); Color Temporis Vocal Ensemble; Collegium Musicum Almae Matris Chamber Choir; Choir and Orchestra of the Cappella Musicale di S. Petronio/Michele Vannelli
rec. live, Basilica San Petronio, Bologna, Italy, 2 October 2006
DYNAMIC CDS 707 [47.26]
 
In 1687 the Bolognese composer Giacomo Antonio Perti was elected Prince of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna. In this capacity he had the responsibility for fixing the date of the annual celebration of the Feast of St Anthony, the patron saint of the Accademia, and for choosing the composers for the music, the propers and the ordinary of the mass. By tradition, the Prince composed the Kyrie and Gloria himself. In 1687 Perti, who had only been elected to the Accademia in 1681, was obviously keen to impress so the Kyrie and Gloria he produced were for three choirs, his Messa a 12.
 
Perti came from a well-to-do Bolognese family and his early teachers included his uncle Lorenzo Perti, later on studying under Carissimiís pupil, Celano. After initial success with music-dramas and cantatas he settled into the role of ecclesiastical composer in Bologna. He became the maestro di cappella at the cathedral of San Pietro and the collegiate church of San Petronio. He had a long career and was still active in 1756; he left hundreds of scores and pupils such as Torelli, Martini and Aldrovandini.
 
His Messa a 12 was premiered on 26 June 1687 by some eighty performers; the work is testament not only to Pertiís skills and his ambitions, but also to the calibre of the first performers. For this disc the piece was recorded live at a performance in San Petronio. The three choirs are made up of three ensembles, the Bolognese vocal ensemble Color Temporis, Collegium Musicum Almae Matris from Bologna University and the Choir of the Cappella Musicale di San Petronio Ė the latter originally founded in 1436 and re-formed in 1980. The three choirs were played in the apsidal chancel of San Petronio, which possesses a balcony which goes all the way around, this enabling Cappella Musicale di San Petronio and Color Temporis to be placed either side of the altar with Collegium Musicum Almae Matris in the apse.
 
Each choir had its own basso continuo group of organ, theorbo, cello, violone as well as the orchestra of the Cappella Musicale di San Petronio being placed in the apse. Each choir had its own group of four soloists as well. One interesting feature of the casting on this disc is that, though the choirs all use female altos, the three alto soloists are all men.
 
Pertiís Messa a 12 is a substantial work in thirteen movements, starting with a lively sinfonia followed by a massive twelve-part Kyrie. For the Christe Perti uses three soprano and three bass soloists and from then on he alternates solo sections with twelve-part choral ones. There are some cori spezzati effects in the choral writing, but generally Perti seems to just revel in the gloriousness of his forces. He concludes the piece with a bit of showing off: a fine double fugue for the Cum Spiritu Sancto with the two fugue subjects combined in augmentation.
 
The soloists are a characterful bunch, each with a vividly characterised voice - none of your bland uniformity here. The results are lively and appealing, very strongly projected. Technically I had no complaints. All sing Pertiís music with commitment. Inevitably the acoustic is a bit bathroomy, with the three choirs echoing around, but I suspect that it gives us a good idea of how it sounded in practice. The recording occasionally picks up certain choral lines, so that in part of the Kyrie you can hear one bunch of tenors rather too distinctly, but all in all itís a terrific achievement.
 
The CD opens with Colonnaís motet Laudate Dominum, an earlier Bolognese work for three choirs, testament to the polychoral tradition in Bologna. This has a rather more antique air to it - Colonna was born nearly thirty years earlier than Perti - but makes a lively start to the disc. Colonnaís use of trumpets in the accompaniment gives the piece a very celebratory air.
 
Pertiís motet Plaudite Mortales for double choir, trumpets and strings, was written when he was seventeen and pre-dates his studies with Celano. It is structured very traditionally with chorus, two arias and concluding chorus. It is a lively piece which makes a fine conclusion to the disc.
 
Pertiís twelve-part mass is no lost masterpiece, but it is a fine and striking achievement, a magnificent poly-choral tour de force. As you listen to it you can almost hear Perti revelling in the fun of writing for such forces. It sparkles with the glee with which he effortlessly showed off his skill.
 
The CD booklet includes an article by Michele Vannelli providing background to the works, the composers and the original celebrations plus some illustrations of the performing space in San Petronio. The Latin texts are provided, but no translations.
 
Occasional awkward corners, smudgy passage-work and poor tone reflect the challenge of producing a live recording with an ensemble of some 120 singers in such complex large-scale music. The performances donít have the surface polish of some studio recordings, but the disc is a terrific achievement. The performances are vivid and lively and all concerned seem to be full of joie de vivre in projecting Pertiís amazing work. Quite simply, this disc is great fun to listen to.
 
Robert Hugill
 
Vivid, lively, full of joie de vivre in projecting Pertiís amazing work.