There is some grand and characteristically sumptuous music on this record of motets and instrumental pieces that might have been heard during the feast of Christmas in St Mark's or one of the other great churches of Venice round about 1600 or a little later. A strong point in its favour, too, is the unhackneyed choice of programme: the instrumental Sonata pian' e forte, of course, is an old favourite, and the two earlier double-choir motets of Gabrieli, Angelus ad pastores and 0 magnum mysterium, are also relatively familiar; but the three remaining Gabrieli motets, all taken from posthumous publications and among his most elaborate polychoral pieces, are much less often tackled—not surprisingly, since they call for exceptional resources.Read more Giovanni Bassano, one of Gabrieli's lesser contemporaries at St Mark's, is represented by a pleasing if unremarkable motet for two choirs—one of high voices and the other the normal SATB combination—and Monteverdi, who became maestro of St Mark's only after Gabrieli's death, by a rather uncharacteristic little piece, in which two sections of recitative are enclosed within a double refrain of dance-like simplicity and liveliness.
A well-planned disc, then, and I wish I could give it an absolutely whole-hearted welcome. But although I admire John Eliot Gardiner's willingness to rethink this music for himself rather than relying on standard styles of interpretation, I have to say that I find his handling of rhythm here so idiosyncratic as to be distracting. Not always, of course; the slow, duple-metre sections with which many of these grand ceremonial pieces begin are often taken quite straightforwardly. But a triple-metre alleluia (the standard ending) tempts the latent choreographer in Mr Gardiner to exaggerated accents and overdrawn phrasing. The one at the end of Audite principes conjured up in my mind's eye a vision of Doge, Patriarch and assorted reverend signors in the middle of their solemn procession down the aisle, breaking into a nifty passepied—appropriate, perhaps, to the court of France a hundred years later, but surely not to the carefully preserved dignity of the Venetian oligarchy. This concentration on rhythmic clarity may (though I doubt it) be an attempt to compensate for fuzzy church acoustics; if so, it is unnecessary, for the recording is in fact admirably clear—even a little lacking in atmosphere, I think, though one can always imagine the music being performed in, say, the Scuola di San Rocco instead of St Mark's or San Zanipolo. The brass ensemble is particularly well recorded, even if trumpets are strictly speaking an anachronism in this music. With some justification (though at times it makes for difficulties of balance) Mr Gardiner uses a solo voice and instruments for one of the choruses in a polychoral piece, and he is well served by his singers, the counter-tenors Charles Brett and John Angelo Messana and the tenors Philip Langridge and Martyn Hill; I particularly liked Mr Messana in Salvator nosier to which he brings a breadth of phrasing that is elsewhere in rather short supply.
O magnum mysteriumby Giovanni Gabrieli Conductor:
John Eliot Gardiner
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Period: Renaissance Written: by 1587; Italy
Exultent caeliby Claudio Monteverdi Conductor:
John Eliot Gardiner
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Period: Baroque Written: by 1629; Italy
Vespro della Beata Vergine: Magnificat(s)by Claudio Monteverdi Conductor:
John Eliot Gardiner
Philip Jones Brass Ensemble
Period: Baroque Written: by 1610; Mantua, Italy
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
"He who sings prays twice" St. Augustine September 18, 2014By Tony Engleton See All My Reviews"09-18-2014 Friends of Orthodoxy not only talk the talk, they walk the walk, even if the price to be paid is high, such as in "your job, your home or your life." Few men have the intestinal fortitude to courageously do what has been asked of them. Giovanni Gabrieli's boss was the Catholic Chuch centered in the Vatican with the Papacy, in his case, it was Pope Celestine who hired this remarkable Venitian, the nephew of Andrea Gabrieli. Together, these two composers formed a triumpherant of authors, and along with Claudio Monteverdi, the Republic of Venice rang out with the glory of music written principally for split brass/wind choirs and the angelic effect of sectional vocal ranges of voices, presumably, adults and children recruited from local chapels and parishes, to augment the elite cathedral choirs that graced the city, serving at the pleasure of both the secular Doge and the liturgical hierarchy of the bishops, Cardinals and papal legates. Chronologically, these composers were the well nourished end results of the magnificence of the Italian Renaissance, awash in the sounds of harmony, spleandor, piety and zeal. The men and women who labored under the Gabrielian discipline and tutiledge provided unique and festive material for the many feasts and observances of the Church year calendar. And, even the more trivial function of the men of the Church was accompanied by great works of complexities and simplicities, that even a traveler such as England's Dr. Charles Burney marveled at this radiant nucleus of Sacred polyphony, preserved, thank God, by faithful scribes and musicologists who wrote down their activities and impressions with vigor and excitement. Truly, as Dr. Burney noted South Italy bristled with music that left the attendee stunned and rejuvenated by the glorious and redemptive power of this holy music. We have, for instance, an account from the good Doctor regarding his eye-witness, first hand, I-was-there festivities of a particular Christmas Eve, where the choir processed into the cavernous Earth-bound inner sanctum of St.Mark's basilica, and the 20th Century engineers from London records captured the aural spleandor of sound that resonated within the huge interior cross, with it's out stretched arms, forming the side balconies where groups of wind and brass instruments were placed for that wonderful cross configured design, most suitable for such acrobatic performances as the faithful occupied the pews below with the luminous melodies soared back and forth over their heads. The effect back then, had to be one of indescribable beauty and Heavenly praise. Just imagine, if you can, how one felt upon emerging from such an experience, life altering to say the least. In a word, overwhelming and riveting were these Hymns and Motets, each of them written for a specific occasion. Oh, for a time machine! Or, at the very least, Mr. Peabody's famous "Way Back machine " of cartoon fame in childrens TV. John Eliot Gardiner and his forces, consisting of the Monteverdi Choir of Hamburg, the Philip Jones brass Ensemble and a cluster of some of England's best acoustical technicians and engineers. Recorded in 1972/74, the selections contain 7 works by Gabrieli and a few from Monteverdi, the best track is the #10, his Magnificat from the "1610 Vespers" the best liturgical work in his canon. Unlike his predecessor, Monteverdi wrote much more for the secular interests as is demonstrated by his several books of madrigals, however, the Church pieces are , nonetheless, quite sophisticated, refined and effective, and they were popular and sought after compositions and have frequently recorded. Gardiner made a 2 CD set if these Vespers and I bought it anticipating an approach close to the German conductor, Nicholas Harnoncourt, but was mush disappointed. Harnoncourt's Teldec release is music of the sublime, and his assistant chief of the orchestra, Jurgen Jurgens also recorded this magnificent program, and it also is splendid. I highly recommend either of them as core recordings of this excellent repertoire piece. So, in summation, these Hymns and Motets of Christmas time, as heard in Venice during the times if these great composers. We really should give the Italians the credit due them as providing the building blocks for opera and also the performance Masses of Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and even Berlioz, and Verdi. Another factor that dawned on me only recently is the fact that the Gabrielis developed out of a void, without any real fundamental base against which to run self-critiques and thereby, make adjustments while composing. Their illustrious predecessor, Palestrina, emerged from his era without really influencing either Andrea or Giovanni, and since he centered most of his attention on a cappella music for the Church, he didn't provide the Gabrielis with any instrumental guidelines regarding performance techniques and contemporary methods , as these later Italians had to figure it out by themselves. like the isolate Haydn at the Esterhazy Court, he was "forced to become original," especially while writing his Symphony #45, the Farewell Symphony. I highly recommend this London disc as a valuable addition to your early vocal/instrumental and you will be able to see and hear the link these works make with the fledgling world of Opera. A grateful and enthusiastic 5 stars from Maestro Gardiner and his fine soloists, choir and instrumentalists. Best wishes and happy listening to you all, and God bless everyone, Tony. AMDG!!!"Report Abuse
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