Recordings > Choral and Song

I Fagiolini: "1612: Italian Vespers"

spacer Music by Gabrieli, Viadana, Palestrina, Monteverdi and others. Hollingworth, conductor. Latin texts and English translations. Decca 001679402


Conductor Robert Hollingworth and the British ensemble I Fagiolini commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Venetian composer Giovanni Gabrieli, in 1612, with his motet In Ecclesiis, capping a reconstructed Vespers service that features music published in the same year by Lodovico Viadana.

The seventeenth-century Vespers service included five successive psalms, each with an antiphon, followed by the hymn “Ave Maris Stella,” a setting of the Magnificat and various other responses and motets. For the psalms, Hollingworth presents fascinating polychoral settings by Viadana, recorded for the first time, while for the Ave Maris Stella he varies each verse with plainchant, the familiar setting by Monteverdi and some curious, contrapuntally intricate versions by the little-known Francesco Soriano, in which a variety of instruments garlands the tune, sung in long notes by the tenors.

The one well-known repertoire item, Gabrieli’s motet In Ecclesiis, has been expanded by Hugh Keyte into a polychoral piece with twenty-eight independent parts, based on evidence that the original publication, which appeared three years after the composer’s death, was lacking several parts. Similarly, Keyte has reconstructed the same composer’s Magnificat as a gloriously opulent and sonorous marvel, with its celebratory fanfare and playful echoes for both chorus and solo singers.

Listeners familiar with Monteverdi’s magnificent and oft-recorded Vespers collection of 1610 will recognize the sound world — masses of brass, strings, voices, organ and lutes in ever-changing textures ranging from solid harmonic blocks to angular solo lines that rise and twist in and out of the ensemble. The woody sound of the cornetto lends point and resonance to upper instrumental lines and is nicely showcased by Gawain Glenton in a solo by Bartolomeo Barbarino. On display throughout is the famed Venetian polychoral style, with its exploitation of sonic space, which characterized I Fagiolini’s previous disc of music by Tallis and Striggio for forty and sixty parts. 

Vocal solos are few, and one or two tenors and countertenors occasionally push for volume with wobbly and unpleasant results, but soprano Clare Wilkinson shows a sweet, supple sound in Viadana’s “O dulcissima Maria,” while Jonathan Sells deftly encompasses the virtuosity of range and flexibility in Monteverdi’s motet for solo bass, “Ab aeterno ordinata sum.” This is a sonic feast, and worthy repertoire. spacer


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