“You cannot avoid thinking of Venice other than in glorious
technicolour - burgundies, mustards, ochres and brilliant azures.”
Thus Paul McCreesh in an illuminating interview with Catherine
Bott that forms part of the booklet for this new release.
How many collectors acquired, as I did, McCreesh’s 1989
Virgin Classics disc, A New Venetian Coronation, 1595?
That was a ground-breaking recording in that, so far as I know,
it was one of the first - if not the first - to present
pre-classical sacred music in the format of a speculative liturgical
reconstruction. The intention was to present the music as it
might have been done at the Coronation of Doge Marino Grimani
(1532-1605) in St Mark’s basilica on 27 April 1595. Paul
McCreesh readily admits that his reconstruction is “completely
speculative” - there are no records that show exactly
what form the order of service took. McCreesh went on to make
several more such discs, among which my own favourite is the
marvellous Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning (review).
The Venetian Coronation programme has remained in the Gabrieli’s
repertoire over the years and, over time, has been adapted and
modified. Now, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Gabrieli’s,
which he founded in 1982, McCreesh has set down on disc his
current version of the programme.
In 1595 Giovanni Gabrieli was one of the organists at St Mark’s
and McCreesh makes his music and that of his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli
- a former organist at the basilica - the backbone of his programme.
In many ways the musical content remains the same as in 1989
and in the track listing I’ve marked with an asterisk
the pieces that are common to both discs. However, even where
the music is the same there are some important differences.
For example, Giovanni Gabrieli’s Deus qui Beatum Marcum
à10 was performed chorally - or at least by a small consort
of voices - in 1989. For the 2012 incarnation McCreesh uses
a pair of solo falsettists, accompanied by a wonderfully gruff
octet of sackbuts. The piece takes on an entirely different
character: in 1989 we heard it as a forthright, public piece;
in 2012 it sounds much more intimate. That’s even more
the case with Andrea Gabrieli’s O sacrum convivium
à 5. The consort version heard in 1989 is lovely but
now it’s sung by five solo voices and this way of performing
the piece imparts a haunting intimacy to it. McCreesh makes
the telling point to Catherine Bott that the Coronation Mass
itself was probably quite a closed affair, just for the top
people in Venetian society, although the crowd at least got
to see an elaborate pre-Mss procession through the streets.
The contrast with Lutheran Germany, where the congregational
hymns were so important in worship and, as such, became a fantastic
feature of Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning, is telling.
Mention of the pre-Mass procession brings me to the biggest
change from the 1989 CD. That began with a brief track (0:50)
in which bells were heard. The opening to the 2012 production
is much more elaborate. We hear the bells, to be sure, but during
the first track, which lasts 8:20, we hear bells more than once.
Moreover there are several pieces of processional music and
everything is heard against a busy background of street noises,
including the chatter of people and even fireworks. A vivid
aural picture is created of the Doge’s procession making
its way to St. Mark’s basilica through excited, thronged
streets. Some may think it’s contrived: I think it’s
The music on the disc is a mixture of vocal pieces composed
by the Gabrieli’s, chant, trumpet fanfares and short organ
pieces. The standard of performance is tremendously high. The
Kyrie, for example, comprises three movements by Andrea Gabrieli,
all requiring different forces. All three pieces have a solemn
grandeur, not least the first Kyrie for solo high tenor and
sackbuts. Andrea Gabrieli’s Gloria à 16 is majestic.
The Venetians thought nothing of replacing parts of the mass
with music for better effect and so, for instance, in this reconstruction
the chanting of the Gradual gives way to a rather splendid 12-part
instrumental canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli. His uncle’s
music furnishes the Sanctus and Benedictus. The music for this
is in twelve parts and it’s magnificent and complex. Here,
it’s thrillingly recorded as well as thrillingly performed
and the listener is given a real sense of the use of spatial
effects. Giovanni Gabrieli has the last word: his Omnes gentes
à16 provides a richly festive conclusion to the liturgy
- both the music and the performance of it are full of exuberance
Nicholas Parker, who produced the 1989 recording in Brinkburn
Priory, Northumberland does the honours for this recording also.
He and engineer Neil Hutchinson have done a superb job in figuratively
transporting Douai Abbey to the Piazza San Marco. The sound
is splendid, as is the documentation. This project offers an
exhilarating and stimulating way to experience the musical glories
of Renaissance Venice but it’s far from a Disney-fication
of the music. The performances here are the product of considerable
scholarship. However, the scholarship is worn lightly. There’s
a tremendous vitality and joyfulness to the proceedings. Though
a fair bit of music is reprised from the 1989 recording it’s
well worth the duplication to hear Paul McCreesh’s current
take on the music; there are differences.
Buy this disc and you’ll experience Renaissance Venice
in the aural equivalent of “glorious technicolour”.
see also reviews by Mark
Sealey and Johan
Track listing (* denotes music included in the 1989 recording)
The Procession [8:20]
Hans Leo HASSLER (1564-1612)
Cesare BENDINELLI (c.
Trumpet Sonata No. 333*
Giovanni GABRIELI (c.
Toccata Secundo Tono [2:02]
Toccata 26 [1:01]
Intonazione Primo Tono [0:30]
Andrea GABRIELI (c. 1520-1586)
Kyrie à 5* [1:59]
Christe à 8* [2:13]
Kyrie à 12* [3:29]
Gloria à16* [5:02]
Canzona à12 [2:48]
Intonazione Settimo Tono* [1:14]
Deus qui Beatum Marcum à 10* [2:51]
Sanctus and Benedictus à 12* [3:40]
Sarasinetta 2 [1:01]
Canzona à 15 [4:34]
Pater Noster [2:02]
Agnus Dei [1:25]
Intonazione Quinto Tono alla Quarta Bassa* [[0:42]
O sacrum convivium à 5*[3:59]
Canzona à 10 [4:23]
Post Communion Prayer [1:58]
Cesare GUSSAGO (fl c1599-1612)
Sonata La Leone [2:15]
Omnes gentes à 16* [4:26]