1612 Italian Vespers
Bartolomeo BARBERINO (c.1568-1617)
Exaudi, Deus [4.07]
Andrea GABRIELI (c.1510-1586)
Dominus Deus Sabaoth [2.59]
Toccata del 9.Tono [0.58]
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.1557-1612)
Magnificat a 20 a 28 Con il sicut locutus. In eco [9.27]
In Ecclesiis [7.21]
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1564-1643)
Ab aeterno ordinate sum [6.20]
MONTEVERDI & Francesco SORIANO (1549-1621)
Ave Maris Stella [9.17]
Giovanni Pierluigi da PALESTRINA (1525-1594)
Quae est ista [3.05]
Ludovico da VIADANA (1560-1627)
Deus, in adiutorium meum [1.42]
Psalm 109 - Dixit Dominus [5.51]
Psalm 112
- Laudate pueri [6.42]
O dulcissima Maria [2.18]
Psalm 126 - Nisi Dominus [5.14]
Psalm 147 - Lauda Jerusalem [4.52]
I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth
rec. 18-20 January 2012, St. John’s Church, Upper Norwood, London
DECCA 478 3506 [78.40]
To a certain extent this disc is a follow-up to Robert Hollingworth and I Fagiolini’s enormously successful project of 2011: the disc of Striggio’s 40-part Mass with accompanying antiphons and solos (Decca 478 2734). If you heard the late night Prom of 22 August 2012 you may well have caught some of this music emerging, as it did, just weeks after the disc’s release.
In many ways this is another 400th anniversary disc remembering the great Giovanni Gabrieli, who died in August 1612. Indeed I have just reviewed a disc performed by Melodi Cantores (Arts 47762-8) and there have been several others.
Often described as a “maverick’ ensemble because, to use that awful phrase, they approach early music ‘from outside the box’. In fact there is little here from Robert Hollingworth’s group which I would personally describe as maverick, only impressive and luscious in approach.
So, what’s this new CD all about? I can do no better than to quote the cover exactly as written: “Second Vespers of the feast of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (in commemoration of the Battle of Lepanto 1571)”.
We begin with introductory tolling bells and appropriate plainchant. A Salve Regina could not be accommodated but is available as a download as is a motet by Bassano, also not included. There is a solo motet, by Barberino, before we embark on the series of psalms, the same texts as those used by Monteverdi in his Vespers of 1610. These settings by Viadana are in the even more up-to-date style. The Viadana Vespers were published exactly 400 years ago. They are fresh and texturally colourful with a clear division between five solo voices and contrasted larger forces doubled by instruments. In between these richly rewarding settings comes the lovely coolness of a Palestrina motet Quae est ista, a setting of a portion of The Song of Songs.
We then have an Ave Maris Stella with outer verses from Monteverdi’s Vespers but inner verses of a more soloistic sort by Francesco Soriano. Whilst the solo voices and instruments perform brilliantly they seem to me to be the weakest section musically in the entire enterprise.
Later we move into a reconstructed Magnificat probably, at least in part by Gabrieli. Only eight of the original 28 parts have survived and some verses have been especially added by Hugh Keyte. He makes a convincing case for the inclusion, at one point, of bells, cannon and brass fanfares including a quote from Andrea Gabrielli's Aria della Battaglia. After all we are commemorating a famous victory by the Venetians over the Turks. I downloaded this work, all 28 lines of it, over 28 pages. It’s superbly done and thrillingly opulent. Although the notation is clear, watch out for small bar-lines if they are a problem for you.
The last track is a gigantic, rock-like fleshed-out In Ecclesis, one of the masterworks of any period let alone the Renaissance. Again Keyte explains how he came to add the extra parts, claiming that the 1615 publication was only a skeleton score. Again it’s worth taking a look at the score on the website.
This recording will be one of my highlights of the year as it will be for many involved with or who enjoy early music. This for a combination of reasons. First, the performances are top quality, the solo singing certainly. Take as an example the wonderful basso profundo of Jonathan Sells in Monteverdi’s virtuosic Ab aeterno ordinate sum.There’s also the rigour and clarity of the ensemble work achieved through Robert Hollingworth’s now experienced leadership. The instrumental playing is wonderful, for example the cornet work of Gawain Glenton as heard in the Exaudi Deus of Barberino. The blend achieved in the string ensemble work is remarkable. It has been said that the cornetto is nearest in tone to the human voice. That’s quite right in this context - it’s a perfect substitute. The background scholarship also marks this out as something very special. Hugh Keyte whose scholarship is second to none adds to Robert Hollingworth’s in-depth programme notes. There’s also a contribution from Dr. John Harper; what he does not know about liturgy is not worth knowing. Try his extraordinary book ‘The Forms and Origins of Western Liturgy’, Oxford, 1991. Then there’s the belief of Decca in recording this vast music so clearly and spaciously and in promoting these at times obscure works. They top this by providing links to other items including the downloading of the scores and video interviews. It’s wonderful to have easy access to sources for music copies and to be told the antecedents of the instruments and their makers.
All in all, a refined and significant disc.
Gary Higginson 

All in all, a refined and significant disc.