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Alessandro Grandi (1590-1630)
Laetatus sum – Vesper Psalms
Accademia d’Arcadia & UtFaSol Ensemble/Alessandra Rossi Lürig
rec. 2019, Church of San Francesco della Vigna, Venice, Italy
ARCANA A525 [73]

This release may be seen as a follow-up to Celesti Fiori, the same ensemble’s 2018 recording of sixteen motets from Grandi’s seven known collections, some printed in his lifetime (review). This disc, recorded just a year later, concentrates on his psalm settings. Rodolfo Baroncini’s detailed liner notes explain that the psalms are Grandi’s least known sacred compositions. Most of us may know little about any of Grandi’s music, but we will let that pass.

My earlier review notes that Grandi is a good example of a composer of the ‘seconda practica’ or ‘stile moderno’. That is the style of the mature Monteverdi, whose reputation has rather tended to overshadow that of his contemporaries. Good examples here are the setting of Laudate Dominum for three soloists and ensemble, and the second setting of Dixit Dominus for eight voices. There are also magnificent polychoral works or pieces in multiple parts. Consider the stirring setting of the ten-part Magnificat, and the fine setting of Laetatus sum which the notes describe as the “real pearl of the collection”. I would agree but would also applaud the setting of Lauda Jerusalem.

One might associate polychoral music and virtuoso vocal motets with Venice. Grandi, however, left his home city for Ferrara which also had outstanding artistic credentials, especially in music. Later he was to marry in Venice, supervise the printing of his works there, and work there again. But it was whilst at Bergamo in the 1620s that, it seems, he composed these psalms for a cathedral which still wanted to embrace the antiphonal and, partially, the older polychoral style. It will also be noticed that the psalms chosen for this recording are of praise and thanksgiving, as for example Laudate Dominum (Praise the Lord, all nations, Psalm 117).

It is good that the back of the cardboard CD case shows the source of each motets. There are two pieces from the Salmi a otto brevi of 1629, one of them the Magnificat; three pieces from the Messa e Salmi concertati a tre voci of 1630, among them a typically expressive setting of Beatus Vir (Psalm 1); and six from the Messa et Salmi also of 1630, including a Confitebor which is psalm 111, texts also set by Monteverdi. In the previous recording, the performers concentrated on Grandi’s publications of 1610, 1613 and 1619. Now we have his later publications, so we can witness how he matured through a greater sense of conveying the deeper emotions of the texts.

Academia d’Arcania consist of nine voices, plus violin, theorbo and organ. UtFaSol Ensemble has one cornetto and four sackbuts. The booklet clearly shows who plays what track. The disc is pleasingly presented. The booklet contains all the texts, and there is a fascinating essay Life of a child prodigy. We learn that Grandi had significant reputation even when he was very young.

There is some fine singing here. A complete understanding of Grandi’s requirements – expressive and often dramatic and technical – is demonstrated in a fine recording suitably made in the composer’s home city.

Gary Higginson

Previous review: Johan van Veen

Magnificat a 10 [8:42]
Confitebor [5:40]
Dixit Dominus [9:23]
Beatus Vir a tre [7:44]
Dixit in ritornelli [5:47]
Laudate pueri a tre [4:36]
Laudate Dominum [2:29]
Confitebor a tre [6:45]
Laetatus sum [6:27]
Laudate pueri IV toni [7:02]
Lauda Jerusalem [8:48]

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