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Rigatti vespro A121
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Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI (c1613-1648)
Vespro della Beata Vergine
i Disinvolti
UtFaSol Ensemble
rec. 2018/19, Chiesa dei Santi Filippo e Giacomo, Monte Magrč, Schio, Vicenza, Italy
Latin texts with English, French, and Italian translations
ARCANA A121 [76:54]

This imagined service of vespers in honour of the Virgin Mary was not explicitly written by Rigatti as such, but the concept adopted for this disc will inevitably draw comparisons with the most famous such vesper settings, those by Monteverdi.

On the whole the parallel is apt. The principal settings for the sequence on this recording, constituting the Catholic Church’s evening service – Psalms, Magnificat, an antiphon addressed to Mary, and final motet – are extracted from Rigatti’s collection Messa e salmi ariosi a tre voci concertati, published in Venice in 1643, the year of Monteverdi’s death. Rigatti was born and trained in the same city, and spent most of his life there before his early death in 1648, so it is inconceivable that he was not influenced by the older composer, especially as he served as a chorister at St Mark’s. The selected items are much less grand than Monteverdi’s famous publication of 1610, however, in terms of their style and the small forces used, making for a fascinating contrast. Only three solo voices are required, accompanied by continuo and, in this interpretation, a cornett and three sackbuts.

Rigatti’s musical settings tend to be rather more simple and direct, often one syllable to a note, rather than florid and melismatic like Monteverdi’s. The ‘Lauda Jerusalem’ deliberately alternates the two styles, and the trio of singers make a point of distinguishing between their terser, more urgent execution of the former and a more plangent projection of the latter. But, in general, the intimate scale of these compositions seems to call from the three male singers a somewhat grainy, almost throaty performance – which is too studied and mellifluous to be accidental – evoking a meditative, even sombre mood of religious devotion rather than outright exaltation directed to the Virgin.

Dynamics rarely rise above a mezzo forte, but when they do, the contrast marks a striking, dramatic turnaround in the musical flow. A notable example is the insistent repetitions of “conquassabit” in the Dixit Dominus which pre-empts the dramatic setting by Handel at the same point more than sixty years later. But even with the comparatively moderate delivery of each choral setting, they still register as a sudden eruption of colour after the black and white austerity of the mostly a cappella plainsong antiphons which preface them. A greater degree of joy, even ecstasy, is reserved for the Magnificat as the climax of the whole liturgy which is sung with drama and alacrity. That is also sustained through to the positive acclamation of the very final item, Rigatti’s motet ‘Plaudite manibus’, sung as the recessio.

Interspersed among these basic components of the vespers service are compositions by other composers, both choral and instrumental. Carlo Milanuzzi’s responsarium ‘Deus ad adiuvandum’ is given a somewhat hoarse rendition to open the service, after the dignified Intonazione del Sesto Tono by Andrea Gabrieli on the organ. Serafino Patta’s ‘Laeva eius’ is sung with a languishing ardour, whilst the instrumentalists exude a warm euphony for Francesco Usper’s Ricercar Ottavo. Gioanpietro Del Buono’s setting of the ‘Ave maris stella’ is a fascinating fantasia upon that plainsong, structurally even more interesting than Monteverdi’s equivalent in his Vespers. The solo chant is alternated with verses in which its notes are spun out as a slower-moving cantus firmus with the notes beautifully sustained by the singers, as though emanating from a fairly distant, undefined space, whilst the instruments weave their counterpoint around that. The sixth verse is almost psychedelic as the instruments draw rather chromatic lines around the plainsong, sounding either like Gesualdo or nothing else until the 20th century.

The overall result is a rewarding release from various angles. First, the settings by Rigatti and most of the other items are claimed to be premiere recordings, and exposure to hitherto unknown music is welcome. Secondly, the repertoire makes for an instructive comparison with that of Monteverdi, like the difference between the smaller, more intimate, and often darker interiors of the less prominent churches and chapels of Venice – such as Santa Maria Formosa, and the chapels of the Ospedali, in all of which Rigatti worked – and the grander architectural settings of the city’s largest churches. Thirdly, the recording’s concept makes a similarly stimulating contrast with the reconstructed services of Venetian music by Paul McCreesh, for example, for Vespers, for the coronation of a Doge (review), and an Easter Mass. In short it provides a worthwhile addition to our knowledge and appreciation of the rich musical and liturgical life of one of the greatest artistic centres in Renaissance Europe.

Curtis Rogers

Previous review: Johann van Veen

Andrea GABRIELI (c1533-1585)
Intonazione del Sesto Tono
Carlo MILANUZZI (1590/2-c1647)
Domine ad adiuvandum
Giovanni Battista RICCIO (fl 1609-1621)
Dixit Dominus
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
Laudate pueri
Serafino PATTA (fl 1606-1619)
Laeva eius
Giovanni Antonion RIGATTI
Laetatus sum
Adriano BANCHIERI (1568-1634)
Nigra sum
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
Nisi Dominus
Francesco USPER (c1560-1641)
Ricercar Ottavo
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
Lauda Jerusalem
Gioanpietro DEL BUONO (d c1647)
Ave Maris Stella
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
Canon L’Alcenagina sopra ‘Vestiva i colli’
Giovanni Antonio RIGATTI
Salve Regina
Plaudite manibus

i Disinvolti [Massimo Altieri (tenor I), Massimo Lombardi (tenor II), Guglielmo Buonsanti (bass), Noelia Revert Reche (viola da gamba), Marco Saccardin (baritone and theorbo), Nicola Lamon (organ)]
UtFaSol Ensemble [Pietro Modesti (cornett), Susanna Defendi (alto sackbut), Fabio De Cataldo (tenor sackbut), Valerio Mazzucconi (bass sackbut)]

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