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Pietro Gnocchi: Musica Sacra Per Le Chiese Di Brescia

Gnocchi / Coro Claudio Monteverdi Di C
Release Date: 04/10/2012 
Label:  Bottega Discantica   Catalog #: 234   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Pietro Gnocchi
Performer:  Gianluca BurattoZara DimitrovaGianluca Ferrarini
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 5 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews



GNOCCHI Magnificat primo. Ave maris stella (2 versions). Mass in D. Magnificat secondo. Mass in F. Concerto for 4 Violins Bruno Gini, cond; Zara Dimitrova (sop); Anna Bessi (alt); Gianluca Ferrarini (ten); Gianluca Buratto (bs); Claudio Monteverdi Ch; Pian & Forte Ens (period instruments) DISCANTICA 234 (65:37)


Yes, there really was a composer whose last name is the same as a well-known and often-devoured potato pasta, but once one resists Read more the temptation to resort to invidious comparisons, the music of a workaday and prolific composer emerges from the shadows of history. Pietro Gnocchi (1689–1775) was a polymath, spending virtually his entire career in the town of Brescia. He became a priest following studies in Vienna, Hungary, and Munich, devoting his efforts to music at the Brescia cathedral and one of the city’s ospedales , the Orfanelle della pietà. He was better known as a geographer and historian, who during his lifetime published a 25-volume history of the ancient Greek colonies, a work that my Greek and Roman historian friends inform me is still quoted.


As a composer, it is not surprising to note given his position, he concentrated upon sacred music, although he also wrote instrumental works in the early galant style. Some of the sonatas were apparently recorded in 2005 by Brixia Musicalis, but the same year a local non-profit foundation was created to perform his music. And he wrote a great deal of it, including some 60 Masses, 12 Magnificats, six sets of Vespers for the entire year, and hundreds of other smaller church works, all of which await the annual concert put on by the foundation, LIBER, to receive their modern premieres. This disc is no doubt intended to become the first of many, and while it is difficult to say whether a veritable Gnocchi revival is simmering on the back burner, this certainly gives a good sampling of the music of this transitional figure from the Baroque to Classical style in Italy. The centerpieces of the disc are two Masses, both of the longa type in which the various sections of the Ordinary are broken down into separate movements. Neither is “complete” in this sense, given that the D-Major Mass consists of only the Kyrie and Gloria, while the F-Major Mass goes as far as the Credo. The two Magnificats are short eight-voice works with some delightful echo effects between antiphonal choirs and an often running string accompaniment, while the two settings of the hymn Ave maris stella range from a four-voice setting to an aria with string accompaniment. The concerto (titled “secondo” but no hint of where the “primo” actually is) is for four violins, viola, and continuo, sounding both in format and structure like an instrumental work meant mainly for the church.


The first hymn has a nice Baroque running bass line sounding very much like Giovanni Pergolesi, with the four solo voices weaving in and out of each other with a string ritornello dividing the entrances. The textures are well balanced and interesting, and there is some good imitative writing. The second setting of the hymn is very Vivaldian in construction, with some careful coloratura for the soprano, often limited in degree of difficulty, as one might expect of a church soloist during the 18th century. The lone instrumental work is extremely old-fashioned, sounding like Arcangelo Corelli (no doubt Gnocchi’s model), but with a more transparent texture thanks to splitting the violins into four. The third movement, a mincing Siciliano, has some very unexpected harmonic twists that are like small surprises in among the conventional suspensions. The final movement has a wonderful bagpipe drone. Labeled a pastorale, it foils the normal final-movement expectation of something bright, probably indicating that it was some sort of work meant for Christmas.


The Masses are of course larger and more complex, adding both oboes and horns to the orchestra. These reflect a practice of the early Classical period and indeed one finds a great deal of Viennese influence here in the homophonic choral writing and wandering violin lines. The F-Major Mass has some fine moments, though all are quite short, save for the expansive Cruxifixus, which devolves into a nice quick-paced “Resurrexit” containing some good antiphonal choral writing. In the Mass in D Major, Gnocchi devotes a bit more attention to the sometimes gnarly harmonic twists, though these movements are by and large also relatively short. The tenor begins the “Domine Deus” with a rolling melismatic line that seems to leap about prodigiously, while the “Domine Deus Rec coelestis” has a nice albeit brief oboe solo that complements a lyrical alto solo. It’s not Vivaldi, but rather much more sedate and appropriate for the church function. The vocal trio of the “Quoniam tu solus” is a lovely set of three-part imitations.


If this disc is representative of all of Gnocchi’s vast musical repertory written for Brescia, then one can only conclude that the sacred musical life was a rich one indeed, and if it is a metaphor of the quality of other larger towns in Italy, then this is a repertory well worth exploring further. As for the performance itself, the tempos that conductor Bruno Gini takes are respectful, which occasionally leads to some lack of energy, but the sound quality is fine (with the occasional reverberation that is the drawback of recording in large cathedrals), and the performance of the Pian & Forte ensemble is solid and steady. The soloists are all fine, as well, although their sound is occasionally a bit thin, something again that is probably the result of the recording, not the performance. As the works or movements are relatively short, there is little opportunity to shine as singers, but the often surprising melismatic lines are easily handled by Anna Bessi, Zara Dimitrova, and Gianluca Ferrarini with good intonation and a nice lyrical flow as befits the music.


In short, as an inaugural disc of Gnocchi’s music, this is a good one. It shows a number of works of genuine quality and variety, and they show that in Brescia the state of sacred music in the first half or more of the 18th century was alive and vibrant, though it lacked the pomp and circumstance of larger cities of Milan, Venice, or Naples. This disc alone should be convincing proof of how interesting and advanced the styles of everyday church music were in the hands of a solid composer like Gnocchi. Sacred-music fans should include this disc in their collections, and I for one look forward to more works being recorded and released. This is a find.


FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
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Works on This Recording

1.
Magnificat No. 1, for 8 voices by Pietro Gnocchi
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1750 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 3 Minutes 10 Secs. 
2.
Ave maris stella, for 4 voices by Pietro Gnocchi
Performer:  Gianluca Buratto (), Zara Dimitrova (), Gianluca Ferrarini ()
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 3 Minutes 8 Secs. 
3.
Missa for 4 voices, chorus & orchestra in D major by Pietro Gnocchi
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1739 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 19 Minutes 22 Secs. 
4.
Concerto for 4 violins, viola, cello & continuo No. 2 by Pietro Gnocchi
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 10 Minutes 14 Secs. 
5.
Ave maris stella, for soprano, 2 violins & continuo by Pietro Gnocchi
Performer:  Zara Dimitrova ()
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 6 Minutes 30 Secs. 
6.
Magnificat No. 2, for 8 voices by Pietro Gnocchi
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1750 
Date of Recording: 09/2009 
Venue:  Abbazia Cistercense di Abbadia Cerreto L 
Length: 3 Minutes 34 Secs. 
7.
Missa for choir & orchestra in F major by Pietro Gnocchi
Conductor:  Bruno Gini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ensemble Pian & Forte
Period: Baroque 
Date of Recording: 10/03/2009 
Venue:  Live  Chiesa dei SS. Ippolito e Cassiano in Al 
Length: 14 Minutes 42 Secs. 

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