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Pietro (Pier) Francesco CAVALLI (1602-76)
Missa 1660 (Grande messe vénitienne pour la paix franco-espagnole de Louis XIV) (Venice, 25 January 1660)
Fanfare [1:43]
Toccata [2:59]
Kyrie (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [5:28]
Gloria (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [14:34]
O Bone Jesu (Sacra Corona, 1656) [5:00]
Credo (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [13:22]
Canzona (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [4:07]
Sanctus (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [3:36]
Anon. Elevatio [5:20]
Pietro Francesco CAVALLI
Agnus Dei (Musiche Sacre, 1656) [4:21]
Plaudite, Cantate (Sacra Corona, 1656) [3:50]
Fanfare II [1:09]
Lauda Jerusalem Dominum (Vesperi, 1675) [3:29]
Stéphanie Revidat, Anne Magouët (soprano); Pascal Bertin, Paulin Bündgen (alto); Martial Pauliat, Vincent Bouchot (tenor), Renaud Brès, Renaud Delaigue (bass)
Galilei Consort/Benjamin Chénier
Texts and translations included.
rec. Chapelle Royale, Château de Versailles, 9-11 February 2018. DDD.

Hitherto, the musical spectacles presented at Versailles have been brought to us on record by Alpha, but in Autumn 2018 they launched their own in-house label and this is the sixth offering. It’s the first to have come my way and, I believe, the first that we have reviewed – I’m planning to catch up with the earlier releases, at least as streamed from Qobuz, with pdf booklet.

The earlier volumes are:

- CVS001 Marc-Antoine CHARPENTIER Les Arts Florissans: Ensemble Marguerite Louise

- CVS002 (2 CDs) André CAMPRA L’Europe Galante: Les Nouveaux Caractères/ Sébastien d’Hérin

- CVS003 (DVD) Michael PRÆTORIUS: Christmas Mass: Les Pages et les Chantres du Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Gabrieli Consort and Players/Paul McCreesh (reminding us of his earlier CD reconstruction for DG Archiv, 4791757, or super-budget download, 4399312).

- CVS004 (DVD video plus CD) Jean-Jacques ROUSSEAU Le Devin du village: Les Nouveaux Caractères

- CVS005 (DVD) George Frideric HANDEL The Coronation of King George II: The King’s Consort/Robert King (another video repeat of a successful earlier CD, Hyperion CDA67286 – review; 2 CDs for the price of one or download with pdf booklet from Having missed the Hyperion, let me very belatedly welcome it, as downloaded for just £8, with the CDs currently at the same super-budget price.

and forthcoming in late March 2019:

- CVS007 Antoine BLANCHART and Colin de BLAMONT La guerre des Te Deum Ensemble Stradivaria

Cavalli’s operas are reasonably well known, albeit often in rather hammed-up performances – Il Giasone completely spoiled for me by too much tomfoolery (Dynamic DVD33663 – DL Roundup September 2012/1). I did, however, enjoy DVDs of La Didone review Elena review – and Ercole Amante review.  Artemisia on Glossa now costs a little more from than when I reviewed it (Recording of the Month), but remains good value against the CDs and other downloads.  Most recently, I enjoyed a Ricercar album of Cavalli arias entitled Heroines of the Venetian Baroque review.

His sacred music is much less well known: this is the only recording of the 1660 Mass generally available on CD but there’s a decent Tactus recording of his Requiem Mass, motets and sonatas (TC600312 Coro Claudio Monteverdi di Crema, Quoniam Ensemble, Academia Dia Pason/Bruno Gini). That’s well worth searching out, as is a more assured recording by The Sixteen and Harry Christophers of Cavalli’s Salve Regina (Coro COR16053, Venetian Treasures DL Roundup October 2011/2). For the links given, substitute

Cavalli’s Magnificat is included on Volume 1 of the Coro recording of Monteverdi’s 1650 collection (COR16142) and his Salve Regina on Volume 2 (COR16160).

Cavalli was one of Monteverdi’s top students – modern scholarship tends to the belief that he and Francesco Sacrati helped the master compose L’Incoronazione di Poppea, with Cavalli the likely composer of Pur te miro – so lovers of the 1610 master’s Vespers should find themselves at home in the successor’s 1660 Mass. Faced with a commission to celebrate the treaty which ended decades of war between France and the Habsburg dominions, rather than compose something new, Cavalli pieced together a complete work from his 1556 publication Musiche Sacre. The Mass in this form may even have done service at St Mark’s as early as 1644. Why not recycle? Bach and Handel did so, and modern performers have done something similar in raiding Monteverdi’s publication Selva morale e spirituale for an ‘alternative’ Vespers service (The Other Vespers, Decca 4831564, I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingsworth and similar collections – Summer 2017/1).

I’ve said that this is the only generally available recording of the Mass from the 1656 collection, but it can also be found with the title Messa concertata, recorded by Seicento, The Parley of Instruments and Peter Holman in 1997, which I recommended in Download Roundup May 2012/1. The download, in mp3 and lossless, with pdf booklet, is a little more expensive than when I reviewed it (£7.99) and the CD is available only from the archive service.

Like the new recording, the Hyperion intersperses other vocal and instrumental music by Cavalli between the sections of the Mass. Holman generally takes the music a little faster than Benjamin Chénier with the Galilei Consort. Because he starts with the Kyrie, however, without the Fanfare and Toccata, his performance at first actually sounds more measured. I’m not going to be dogmatic about how the music might have sounded in St Mark’s in 1644 or in Paris in 1660, but Chénier’s approach certainly grabs the listener slightly more than Holman’s. He also employs a slightly larger instrumental ensemble, with a tambour, two cornets, a trumpet and four trombones to Holman’s three, thus accounting for the brighter, brassier sound of the new recording.

Holman also fields a smaller team of singers, with the two groups of soloists doubling as the choir and with high tenors rather than altos on the second line. What they lack in numbers they make up for in quality – Andrew Carwood, now the director of both the Cardinall’s Musick and St Paul’s choir, no less, is one of the tenors.

The Galilei Consort also field a fine team of two sets of soloists, a separate eight-voice choir and instrumentalists. I was so impressed by their performance that I also listened to their recording of Giovanni Rovetta’s (1596-1668) Messe pour la Naissance de Louis XIV – pretty good going to get a Mass written for your birth! Recorded in 2015, it carries the Château de Versailles logo on the cover but comes on the Alpha label (Alpha 965). The Mass is interspersed with music by Monteverdi, Giovanni Gabrieli, Rigatti and Bassano. It’s perhaps not as much sheer fun as the Cavalli recording, but it’s well worth hearing. Subscribers to Naxos Music Library will find it there, along with Rovetta’s Vespers for the birth of Louis XIV (Cantus Cölln directed by Konrad Junghänel, Harmonia Mundi HMC901706)1.

The Rovetta Vespers recording is download only – from for US$ purchasers or better value from Presto or Qobuz for those afflicted by the Brexit-diminished UK£. There’s no booklet from any source.

The Galilei Consort end with the psalm Lauda Jerusalem Dominum,2 from Cavalli’s 1675 collection of Vespers music – a shorter setting than that from the 1656 collection, included in one of Paul McCreesh’s famous reconstructions with his Gabrieli Consort and Players, a putative Venetian Vespers for the feast of the Annunciation, as it might have been celebrated in St Mark’s in 1643. With music by Monteverdi, Rigatti, Grandi, Cavalli, Marini, Banchieri, Giovanni Gabrieli et al, it’s a glorious 95-minute concoction which I strongly recommend (Presto CD 4761868 or download E4594572).

There would have been room on the new recording for that more elaborate setting. As it is, however, the shorter setting makes a fitting conclusion to a moreish recording. Perhaps if and when the Galilei Consort do give us a second helping of Cavalli they may include more Vespers music from either the 1656 or the 1675 collection, or a mixture of both.

There is room for another recording of the Vespers music: Johan van Veen thought the Coro Claudio Monteverdi on Dynamic in the Vespero della Beata Vergine (Marian Vespers, from the 1675 collection, CDS7782) ‘good enough to allow enjoyment’, but hoped for a complete recording from a first-rate ensemble – review – and he thought their Vespero de Domeniche (Sunday Vespers, CDS7714) ‘not … ideal … but very respectable’ – review.

There’s a very fine 2-CD Glossa recording of Vespers music from the 1656 Musiche Sacre, for those wanting to explore further the music from that collection (GCD922509, Concerto Palatino, rec. 1994 – DL Roundup May 2012/1). There’s also a collection of Cavalli’s music for Marian Vespers from the 1675 collection on Tactus TC600311 (Athestis Chorus and Consort on period instruments, directed by Nicola Bellinazzo in 1997 – reviewed in Winter 2017-18/2).

I certainly shan’t be abandoning the more considered Hyperion recording of the Mass, nor shall I be setting its new rival aside as too brash. Force me to a choice between two fine recordings and I imagine that most prospective purchasers will prefer the more overt style of the new version. Either way, you get some really uplifting music from Monteverdi’s principal successor, very well performed. Did I mention that a very good, spacious recording sets the seal on this very attractive new release?

1 It may be egging the pudding somewhat also to attribute this Vespers collection to Louis XIV’s birth; only a Mass and Te Deum are recorded, unless there is evidence to the contrary in the Harmonia Mundi booklet to which, unfortunately, I had no access.

2 Someone has done some unwarranted ‘correction’ to the Latin title in the track listing, changing the singular lauda to the plural laudate. Fortunately, the actual text is correct.

Brian Wilson

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