La leggenda di Vittore e Corona nei codici del medioevo
(The legend of Victor and Corona in the medieval codices)
rec. October 2020, Basilica Santuario St.Vittore e Corona, Anzł di Feltre (Belluno), Italy
TACTUS TC220002 [53:04]
This is an attempt to reconstruct the music that might have been part of the celebrations commemorating the third-century Christian martyrs Vittori, known in England as Victor and Corona. They are remembered on a memorial day, November 24th, and on a Feast Day, May 14th. According to the legend, Victor, a converted Roman soldier, was eventually beheaded. Corona or Stephanie, a sixteen-year-old wife of another soldier, comforted and encouraged Victor. For that, she was torn apart between two palm trees.
This music generally comes from a manuscript associated with St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Each of the nine tracked sections is divided into at least three associated texts, which may be sung to plainchant, organum or two- or three-part polyphony. It all seems to be anonymous. The earliest pieces can be dated to the 8th century, the polyphony no later than the 15th century.
Take track six as an example. It begins with the plainchant Deus excelse. It then develops more rhythmically with a vocal drone, soon replaced by an instrumental drone on the vielle. The lines are punctuated (here and on other tracks) by a heavy bass drum thud. I cannot work out why this was thought necessary, but it sounds suitably dramatic and Byzantine! Recorders and bells join in with something that approaches a 14th-century dance-like lauda (an Italian vernacular sacred song), Omne homo ad alta voce. Elena Modena’s excellent booklet notes describe these pieces as “powerfully stirring choral frescoes: the weeping of the former is followed by the exhortation of the latter”.
The next track betrays another source. After the plainchant Dixit dux, we are treated to a rhythmic version of Congaudeant catholici translated as ‘Let the whole world rejoice’, heard with gentle percussion. This is associated with the manuscript from Compostella, the Codex Calixtinus. The brief final track consists of an impressive ars antiqua motet (c.1280) Crux firma. The plainchant Gloria Laus on track four, performed partly rhymically with percussion, celebrates Jesus’s ride into Jerusalem on a donkey on Palm Sunday a week before the crucifixion; this is a reminder that St. Victor was following Christ to his martyrdom.
The instruments are listed in the booklet. A gothic harp was copied from a tomb in St. Mark’s, an organistrum from the sculpture on the Portico de la Gloria at Santiago di Compostella. There is a five-string vielle, a soprano flauto, a tenor basso flauto, a positive organ, and the percussion. The instruments are used mostly with discretion, to add colour.
Ilario Gregoletto plays the portative organ, the flutes and percussion. I am enormously impressed with the three singers, Caterina Chiarcos, Elena Modena and Anna Passarini. Their voices ring out clearly both in tuning and with diction, aided by the helpful and evocative acoustic of the church in Anzł di Feltre. It is an 11th-century basilica of great dignity and beauty, with frescoes depicting the life of the two saints. It must have been wonderfully exhilarating, if not a little strange, to be recording a disc in remembrance of Saint Corona during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tactus makes some texts available online but this disc is not there.
Caterina Chiarcos (voice, vielle)
Elena Modena (voice, gothic harp, percussion)
Anna Passarini (voice, organistrum)
Ilario Gregoletto (medieval portative organ, flutes, percussion)
1. Vittore soldato martire (6:39)
2. L’ira di Sebastiano (5:06)
3. Divina volontą e gratitudine santa (7:48)
4. Martire della gloria (7:08)
5. Pazienza, tenacia, amore sacrificale (6:08)
6. Lo strazio della croce, la forza della croce (6:46)
7. Nascita in cielo (6:30)
8. Vittore incoronato (3:55)
9. Nel segno della croce (3:08)