Notes and Editorial Reviews
Motets a 5
DIVINE ART 25062 (79:56
Text and Translation)
AGOSTINI, JOSQUIN DES PREZ, WERT
The disc is devoted mostly to the motets of Alessandro Grandi (1575–1630), a composer not well represented on disc. The short bits of bonus tracks at the end
require some explanation, for this disc is essentially the equivalent of a soundtrack album. Not exactly, for while a film, “Fallen,” is being shown, the music is sung behind the screen. The film, using only three characters, is a weird tale of a young wife abandoned by her husband (a Gonzaga, of course), being shut up in a convent where she meets the ghost of Lucrezia Borgia (of course) who is buried there, and a young man (a necessary addition to the plot) who falls through space and time to be a source of temptation. In addition to the motet ensemble singing Grandi, a women’s choir representing the nuns of the convent (recruited locally for the film showings but sung here by a group called Celestial Sirens) sings chant and the other bonus pieces. A piece credited to St. Catherine of Bologna (a nun from the convent in Ferrara that is the location of the action) is only a prayer of hers set here to an all-purpose sonnet melody, hence she does not belong in the list of composers.
Grandi set his motets for five mixed voices, but here the men’s parts are transposed up an octave. By exception, one motet is set for five tenors, transposed here for sopranos, and in several other motets the bass part is simply omitted. The ensemble includes several familiar names from such groups as the Tallis Scholars, so the performances are expert, acknowledging the limitation to high voices. The arrangements are validly based on the original circumstances. Grandi served in Ferrara until 1617, three years after the publication of this book, which was dedicated to the widow of Alfonso II d’Este, Margherita Gonzaga d’Este, who returned to Mantua and entered the convent there without professing vows. She maintained a comfortable life there, even obtaining a dispensation from the pope to have polyphony sung in the convent. This Mantuan convent is not the Ferrarese convent of the filmed story, but quibbling is unnecessary. The bonus tracks all use music of composers who were familiar with both Ferrara and Mantua.
Given the sparse representation of Grandi on disc, we should take this peculiar presentation on its own terms. It’s probably the only music of the period entirely transposed for equal voices in a recording. You will know if it’s to your taste.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Motetti (16) a cinque voci by Alessandro Grandi
Written: 1614; Italy
Length: 57 Minutes 24 Secs.
Veni sposa Christie by Ludovico Agostini
Length: 3 Minutes 3 Secs.
Vox in Rama audita est by Giaches de Wert
Written: by 1581; Italy
Length: 3 Minutes 4 Secs.
Ave Maria, virgo serena by Josquin Des Préz
Length: 5 Minutes 23 Secs.
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