O Jesu Mi Dulcissime Heinrich SCHÜTZ(1585-1672) Wie lieblich sind deine Wohungen a 8 (SWV 29) [7:05]
Giovanni GABRIELI(c1554/57-1612) O magnum mysterium a 8 (C 3) [3:56]
Canzon II à 6 (C 196) [4:20]
Claudio MONTEVERDI(1567-1643) Cantate Domino a 6 (SV 293) [1:59]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ Alleluia! Lobet den Herren a 8 (SWV 38) [9:13]
Nicolò CORRADINI(?-1646) Prospera lux venit* [5:14]
Giovanni GABRIELI Omnes gentes plaudite manibus a 16 (C 52) [3:47]
Nicolò CORRADINI O Jesu mi dulcissime** [4:39]
Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585)
O sacrum convivium a 5 [4:29]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ Selig sind die Toten a 6 (SWV 391) [3:47]
Claudio MONTEVERDI Beatus vir a 6 (SV 268) [9:31]
Giovanni GABRIELI O Jesu mi dulcissime a 8 [4:37]
Jo Golden**, Cat Paterson* (soprano), Camilla Fawkner** (contralto),
Joseph Denby** (tenor), Tim Reader** (bass)
Coro, Camerata Antica/Mark Griffiths
rec. 29-30 October 2011, St Mary-At-Hill, Monument, London, UK. DDD
DAL SEGNO DSPRCD602 [62:37]
The core of this disc is the repertoire for double choir, which
is is inextricably bound up with Venice. It was Adrian Willaert
who laid the foundations of the technique of writing for cori
spezzati, which was then further developed by Andrea Gabrieli
and his nephew Giovanni. Before Willaert music for two choirs
was already written in other cities, and the very idea of juxtaposing
two 'choirs' is much older. It goes back to the early stages
of liturgical music, when the verses of a Psalm were sung in
turn by two groups of singers. Whereas Willaert composed music
for two groups of the same line-up - SATB - the Gabrieli's wrote
also pieces for two choirs of different scoring, for instance
a 'high' versus a 'low' choir. The collaboration of instruments
was usually not indicated in the scores, but it was common practice
to use in particular cornetts and sackbuts to either replace
or support some or even all of the voices.
The cori spezzati technique quickly disseminated across
Europe, and was enthusiastically embraced by, for instance,
Michael Praetorius in Germany, and also someone like Mikolaj
Zielenski in Poland. The main composer in 17th-century Germany
was Heinrich Schütz, and he had experienced the polychoral
style himself while studying in Venice with Giovanni Gabrieli.
He frequently used this technique in his own oeuvre, for instance
in the Psalmen Davids of 1619. In the early decades of
the century new elements of the Italian style were incorporated,
such as the writing of independent instrumental parts and the
more individual treatment of the human voice. This was called
the concertato style, which again was quickly adopted
elsewhere, especially in Germany. And again it was Heinrich
Schütz who played a key role in incorporating this new
style into the German contrapuntal tradition.
This disc offers examples of both styles. The pieces by the
Gabrieli's and the two first works by Schütz, both from
his Psalmen Davids, are polychoral. In the compositions
by Corradini we have specimens of the concertato style.
The latter is the unknown quantity on this disc. He was born
and died in Cremona, where he worked as an organist and succeeded
Tarquinio Merula as maestro di cappella of the Cappella
delli Laudi. The two pieces on this disc are from a collection
of sacred concertos in the concertato style. Prospera
lux venit is for solo voice, two violins and basso continuo.
The two violin parts are played here by cornetts, and that doesn't
turn out to be a good decision. The lower notes of the soloist,
the soprano Cat Paterson, are overpowered by the cornetts. Ms
Paterson has a nice voice, but the performance is rather bland,
with little dynamic shading and a complete lack of ornamentation.
O Jesu mi dulcissime is for four voices and bc with passages
for pairs of voices. The liner-notes state that particular lines
are emphasized "with the return of the full choir". However,
it is very unlikely that the tutti episodes were ever sung by
a 'choir'. In the booklet of the Gabrieli Consort and Players'
recording A New Venetian Coronation 1595 Paul McCreesh states
that "[Over] the years I have come to believe that one to a
part singing was very common in major cathedrals (...)". In
this recording we hear a choir with 29 singers which is largely
responsible for this disc being generally unsatisfying.
Unfortunately things go wrong from the word go. In Schütz's
Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen very little of the
text is understandable. It isn't very helpful that the booklet
includes only English translations of the lyrics, but omits
the original texts. The size of the choir causes a lack of transparency.
The articulation is not good enough and dynamic shading is largely
absent. The declamatory passages in the second half don't come
off very well. The pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli, with their more
linear texture, are receiving more convincing interpretations,
but even here the size of the ensemble takes its toll. Omnes
gentes plaudite manibus is for 16 voices in four choirs.
Performing it with 16 singers and probably additional instruments
is problematic enough as it is, a performance with an even larger
ensemble makes it hard to discern the various lines, let alone
understand any of the text.
Even more disappointing are the pieces which include elements
of the concertato style and traditional polyphony. Selig
sind die Toten is not too bad, but most of the peculiarities
Schütz uses to express the text are not conveyed that well
in a choral performance. Even less satisfying is Monteverdi's
Beatus vir, one of his most popular pieces. The tempo
is too slow, and the various passaggi can hardly be realized
with a choir. In this piece Monteverdi often juxtaposes two
pairs of voices, mostly soprano I and II versus tenor I and
II, and these include many figurations which strongly suggest
a performance with solo voices rather than a choir. The instrumental
scoring is also questionable: Monteverdi has set the two upper
parts for violins, and added three ad libitum parts for
either viole da braccio or sackbuts. The very fact that
he didn't offer an alternative for the upper voices seems deliberate.
The balance between instruments and voices is less than ideal
in this performance.
There is no doubt about the qualities of this choir, but it
wasn't a particular good idea to choose repertoire which was
not intended for performances with this number of singers. The
Camerata Antica plays very well, and can be heard independently
in a nice performance of Andrea Gabrieli's motet O sacrum
convivium. On balance, however, this disc fails to convey
the full glory of the chosen repertoire.
Johan van Veen
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