Adriaen WILLAERT (1490 - 1562)
Vespro della Beata Vergine
Deus in adiutorium [1:02]
Annibale PADOVANO (1527-1575)
Toccata del 8° tono* [3:48]
Benedicta es - Per illud a 7 [7:05]
Ricercar I a 4* [4:35]
Jachet DE MANTUA (1483-1559)/ Adriaen WILLAERT
Dixit Dominus a 8 [6:31]
Laudate pueri a 8 [3:54]
Ricercar I a 3* [5:18]
Jachet DE MANTUA/Adriaen WILLAERT
Laetatus sum a 4 [6:50]
Nisi Dominus a 4 [5:22]
Ricercar VII a 3* [4:12]
Lauda Jerusalem a 8 [4:45]
Ave maris stella a 6 [7:42]
Ricercar X a 4* [5:15]
Magnificat a 4 [8:27]
Benedicamus in laude Jesu a 4 [1:34]
Toccata del 3° e 4° tono* [2:59]
Capilla Flamenca/(Rob Cuppens, Marnix De Cat (alto), Jan Caals, Tore Denys,
Govaart Haché, Laurens Wyns (tenor), Lieven Termont (baritone), Dirk
Snellings (bass)) Joris Verdin (organ)*/Dirk Snellings
rec. February 2012, Chapel of the Zusters van Sint Vincentius, Gijzegem, Belgium
and March 2012 at the Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna, Italy*
RICERCAR RIC 325 [79:30]
If I am not mistaken Paul McCreesh was one of the first to perform Italian sacred
music from around 1600 in the form of liturgical reconstructions. His 'Venetian
Coronation Mass' recorded in 1989 was groundbreaking. Only recently he recorded
such a 'remaking' (review;
His example has been copied by others.
This disc also contains a kind of liturgical reconstruction. It concentrates
on Adriaen Willaert, a Venetian composer who is somewhat overshadowed by the
Gabrielis and in particular by Claudio Monteverdi. He was highly respected in
his time though he laid the foundation of the cori spezzati practice
which would become one of the hallmarks of liturgical music in Venice.
There is no Vespro della Beata Vergine in Willaert's oeuvre, comparable
with the famous Monteverdi 1610 Vespers. A collection of 1555 includes a Vespro
della Madonna, though, and one wonders why the Capilla Flamenca didn't choose
this piece to record if they wanted to present Willaert's music in its liturgical
context. The Vespers followed a strict formal pattern: they opened with the
verse Deus in adiutorium, which was followed by five Vesper Psalms, a
reading of a lesson or capitulum, a hymn, the Magnificat with
antiphon and prayers and ended with Benedicamus Domino. There’s
no complete Vesper liturgy on offer on this disc.
In the Vespers the Psalms and the Magnificat are embraced by antiphons. These
are absent from this recording. Before the first Psalm we hear the motet Benedicta
es - Per illud ave. The liner-notes don't explain why this piece has been
included or why it is put before the first Psalm. It was quite common to sing
a motet instead of the repeat of the antiphon after a Psalm, but since no antiphons
are sung here, that wouldn't make any sense. The inclusion of organ pieces also
raises questions. Katelijne Schiltz, in her liner-notes, writes that "[in] contrast
to Monteverdi's setting of the Vespro della Beata Vergine, an extensive
collection of instruments was not used during the middle of the 16th century.
The organ was certainly employed, but did not accompany the choirs, who most
probably sang a cappella". She doesn't explain what exactly the organ's role
in the Vesper liturgy was. There seems to be little connection between the organ
pieces and the vocal works. That is only emphasized by the fact that they are
recorded in different venues.
Let's concentrate on the music. The programme opens with the verse Deus in
adiutorium, sung here in faux-bourdon style. This is followed by
a toccata by Annibale Padovano. He was organist at San Marco from 1552 to 1565
and is particularly important to the development of the form of the toccata.
While in Venice he was probably also a pupil of Willaert. The latter's motet
Benedicta es is in two parts, the second beginning with the words "Per
illud ave prolatum". It is scored for seven voices and is a typical specimen
of the Franco-Flemish school. It has a dense structure and is strictly polyphonic,
without passages of homophony, and includes a three-part canon. There is little
connection between text and music and the motet is characterised by a continuous
flow which is only interrrupted between the first and second section.
The liner-notes are a little confusing in their comments on the Vesper Psalms.
It is explained that they can be divided into two groups. On the one hand we
have the salmi con sue risposte: the verses are separated by a caesura
and are sung in turn by the two choirs. The first choir consists of solo voices,
the second has more than one voice per part. It needs to be noted that the latter
aspect is ignored in this recording: the second 'choir' also comprises just
four voices. The three Vesper Psalms in this category are Dixit Dominus,
Laetatus sum and Nisi Dominus. They are the fruit of a collaboration
between Willaert and his colleague Jachet de Mantua: the latter wrote the music
for the first choir, whereas Willaert composed the music for the second. Jachet
was of French origin and one of the most widely published composers of his time.
The problem is that the latter two Psalms are not for eight voices, but for
four. Therefore they can't be divided into two choirs. There is no objection
to the verses being sung in turn by the two 'choirs', but was that required
by the composers? And who composed which verses?
Laudate pueri and Lauda Jerusalem are of the second type, called
salmi spezzati. The choirs again sing the verses alternately, but here
there is some overlap: one choir still sings the final cadence when the other
choir begins the following verse. In the 6-part Ave maris stella and
in the Magnificat and Benedicamus in laude, the latter two for
four voices, we hear the practice of alternatim singing: the verses are
alternately in plainchant and polyphonic. This is one of the oldest practices
in liturgical music.
Capilla Flamenca is one of the best vocal ensembles around, and we get here
very polished performances. The voices blend perfectly, and there is also a
great deal of transparency which makes the text clearly understandable. This
is especially important as the Council of Trent expressed the need to make sure
that the faithful were able to hear the text in liturgical music. This could
probably also explain why in this kind of music no instruments were used to
double the voices.
Although we are left in the dark as far as the function of the organ pieces
is concerned, one can only admire Joris Verdin's performances, and even more
the beautiful historical instruments in the Basilica di San Petronio of Bologna,
dating from 1471-75 and 1531 respectively.
The booklet includes the lyrics, but without English translations. The translations
of the Psalms can easily be found in the Bible, and an internet search pretty
quickly leads to translations of the other texts. Even so, it is not as it should
be: a booklet should provide the listener with at least English translations
of non-English texts. In Dixit Dominus the largest part of the doxology
has been left out.
The English translation of the liner-notes includes an annoying error. Here
we read that composers "were required to distance themselves from the age-old
Gregorian chants with their unison melodies". This is nonsense, and the result
of a wrong translation of the original Dutch text. In fact Ms Schiltz writes
that composers needed to use the Gregorian chants as a starting point. Only
then the next sentence makes sense: "The composers' skills were applied to the
integration of these fixed requirements into a polyphonic frame (...)".
From a musical point of view this is an excellent release. This great repertoire
which has hardly been explored as yet, receives exemplary performances. The
whole reconstruction thing should be taken with a spoon of salt, though.
Johan van Veen
This great repertoire receives exemplary performances.