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A New Venetian Coronation, 1595
Gabrieli Consort and Players/Paul McCreesh
rec. 28-29 February, 1 March 2012, Douai Abbey, Berkshire, England. DDD
Latin texts and English translations included
Full track-listing at the end of this review

Experience Classicsonline

“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 great!
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 and vitality.

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”.
John Quinn

see also reviews by Mark Sealey and Johan van Veen

Track listing (* denotes music included in the 1989 recording)

The Procession
Hans Leo HASSLER (1564-1612)
Intrada Tertia/Sexta/Septima
Cesare BENDINELLI (c. 1542-1617)
Trumpet Sonata No. 333*
The Mass
Giovanni GABRIELI (c. 1554/57 -1612)
Toccata Secundo Tono [2:02]
Introit [4:24]
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]
Collect [1:23]
Epistle [1:05]
Canzona à12 [2:48]
Gospel [2:03]
Intonazione Settimo Tono* [1:14]
Deus qui Beatum Marcum à 10* [2:51]
Preface [3:06]
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] 







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