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Seventeenth-century music from Venice to Dalmatia
The Marian Consort/Rory McCleery
The Illyria Consort/Bojan Čičič
Rec. 2020, Chapel of Merton College, Oxford
Texts and translations provided DELPHIAN DCD34260 [58:26]
This is a difficult review to write for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is an area of music outside my usual listening. Why then did I choose it, you would be justified in asking? Because I am in New Zealand, I prefer to let reviewers in countries closer to the UK have their choice first, to reduce MWI’s postage costs. Thus, I always wait until our CD coordinator sends out the monthly list for the second time to see what remains. I was rather surprised to see this still available, and felt that the quality of the two ensembles meant it shouldn’t go unreviewed. Also, unfamiliar as it was, I expected that the music should be interesting.
Which leads us on to the second difficulty: I hadn’t expected this Adriatic voyage to metaphorically stop at quite so many churches along the way. Thirteen of the eighteen works presented here are sacred choral works, and all are devotional, with the generally slow tempos that this implies. I had been expecting a lot more instrumental music inspired by the various ethnic groups around the Adriatic. My fault then for not looking more carefully at the track list, which would have shown the preponderance of Latin titles, suggesting church music. The five instrumental tracks are rather “conventional” in the style of early Baroque chamber music, an area of which I do have some knowledge. Even here the tempos are, for the most part, fairly sedate.
The Adriatic voyage of the title refers to one taken by Venetian statesman Giacomo Soranzo in 1575, whose detailed diary of his trip around the Dalmatian coast survives. An inspection of dates for the eight composers included in the programme shows that it is likely that none of them were active at the time of Soranzo’s travels; most of the music would have been composed in the decades afterwards.
Let me make it clear that there is certainly plenty to interest the late Renaissance/early Baroque aficionado. My problem is the lack of variety, in both dynamics and tempo. Each work has its points of interest, but taken as a whole, one tends to blur into the next. The most distinctive work, for me, is the Sonata 7 by Tomaso Cecchino, born in Italy but with a professional career in Croatia, featuring a dominant role for the cornetti, beautifully played by Gawain Glenton.
The Marian Consort, comprising five singers, has a substantial discography on Delphian stretching back a decade, and without doing a full survey on our site, I think the general consensus has been very favourable – see here for one example. The Illyria Consort is a more recently formed ensemble, but it too has a number of positive reviews on our site (example). So I can be quite confident that the problem I had is not with the performers, but rather the programme itself, and very probably my expectations. The booklet notes provide more information than I thought might have been available on the composers, setting them in the historical context of the events of the times. The sound quality is very natural, balancing the voices and instruments ideally. The playing time of under an hour is less than generous.
All aspects of this CD speak of quality, which is why it pains me to say that it left me cold, and I will not be returning to it. But I am quite sure that this puts me in a very small minority.
Contents Francesco Usper (c. 1560-1641)
Ave Maria [4:17] Gabriele Usper (fl. 1609-1632)
Sonata a 4 [4:01] Gabriello Puliti (c. 1575-1642)
En dilectus meus [3:30]
Donna ingrata [2:15] Vinzenz Jelich (1596-c. 1635)
Bone Jesu [3:13]
Ricercar 3 [2:34]
Exultate Deo [3:05] Giulio Schiavetto (fl. 1562-65)
Ave Maria [4:17] Bartolmeo Sorte (d. c. 1601)
I superbi colossi [3:43] Ionnes Lukacich de Sebenico (1587-1648)
Panis angelicus [2:22]
Quam pulchra es [7:27]
Sicut cedrus [2:47] Tomaso Cecchino (Cecchini) (c. 1583-1644)
Surge propera [2:26]
Sonata 6 [1:49]
Sonata 7 [1:59]
Sonata 8 [2:14]
Al vivo sol [1:52] Francesco Usper
Battaglia per sonar e cantar a 8 [4:28]