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Striggio: Mass In 40 Parts / Robert Hollingworth, I Fagiolini [CD & DVD]


Release Date: 04/29/2011 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001565500  
Composer:  Alessandro StriggioVincenzo GalileiAnonymousThomas Tallis
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Note: The first version of this release contained a CD and a PAL DVD. The PAL video format is not playable on North American units. However, subsequent editions have now included the DVD in the NTSC format, which is playable in North America.

Decca is proud to release the world-premiere CD recording of Striggio’s long-lost 40-part mass, Missa Ecco sì beato giorno, the music thought to have inspired Tallis’s masterpiece Spem in alium. Recorded by I Fagiolini in celebration of its 25th anniversary, the disc is accompanied by Spem in alium and Striggio’s other tour de force upon which the mass is based, the motet Ecce beatam lucem.

Both the mass and motets have been recorded in the round, providing a
Read more genuinely revealing use for 5.1 surround-sound which can be heard on the accompanying DVD. The result reproduces both the grandeur and intimacy of the music, and imaginatively brings together not just voices but the full gamut of Renaissance instrumental colour (strings, brass, wind and lutes).

Not for a long time has such an ambitious recording project of almost entirely Renaissance world première recordings been undertaken with forces on this scale. The album is a tantalising showcase for some of the finest talent in the world of Renaissance performance, all conducted by I Fagiolini’s founder Robert Hollingworth.

Although references to Striggio’s mass exist from his 1567 European journey, the work was lost until its re-discovery a few years ago and its first modern-day performance at the 2007 BBC Proms. This recording uses the edition made by Hollingworth and Brian Clark and recently published by the Early Music Company.

Also recorded is Tallis’ 40-part Spem in alium; notably this performance uses instruments (another recording première), and benefits from Hugh Keyte's new edition of the work which corrects previous errors and proposes a new theory about the work. The recording is completed with an imaginative selection of fascinating Striggio works (many for political occasions), all world premières.

This extraordinary album is accompanied by a bonus DVD which features a 12-minute behind-the-scenes film made during the recording and 5.1 surround-sound files of the large-scale works. The film features head-to-heads with conductor, producer, and some of the performers.

R E V I E W S:

3514850.az_STRIGGIO_Missa_Ecco_Ecce.html

STRIGGIO Missa Ecco sì beato giorno. Ecce beatam lucem. Fuggi. O giovenil. Altr’io. D’ogni gratia. O der la bella. Caro dolce. Miser’oimé. V. GALILEI Contrapunto. TALLIS Spem in alium Robert Hollingworth, cond; I Fagiolini DECCA 478 2734 (CD + DVD: 68:53, 57:55 Text and Translation)


Four years ago Davitt Moroney contributed an important discovery to the Journal of AMS (spring 2007, pp. 1–69). He had found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France a Mass for 40 voices by Alessandro Striggio (c.1536–92) that has been described as lost even as recently as in the Striggio article in The New Grove Dictionary, second edition of 2001. He described in detail Striggio’s tour of Vienna, Munich, Paris, and London, on which he brought the Mass with him for performance. It is this work, rather than the 40-voice motet Ecce beatam lucem , that was the model which Thomas Tallis set out to surpass with his Spem in alium . Since the model for the Mass, Ecco si beato giorno , is lost, it can only be assumed that Ecce beatam lucem was a contrafact of that piece. As long as the Mass remained hidden away in the BnF, the motet was seen as Tallis’s model, and recordings of Ecce beatam lucem in multi-choral programs by Edward Higginbottom on K 617 and twice by Paul Van Nevel ( Fanfare 19:4 and 30:5) included Tallis’s motet along with Striggio’s. (The notes for this disc say that Striggio’s motet is “widely performed and recorded,” but I know of no other versions.)


Hugh Keyte’s notes are quite witty. Striggio composed these two works for five eight-part ensembles, and the motet was performed in the Florence cathedral in 1561 in a spectacular array of cloud machines representing a vision of heaven. He suggests that the five choirs were arranged vertically, but due to the limitations of stereo and surround-sound recording the choirs are arranged for the recording from left to right. He suggests that a listener might arrange his speakers vertically, or the less technically minded “could try lying on their sides.” Just as masses and other published collections often end with an expanded ensemble, so the “dona nobis pacem” section of the Agnus Dei expands to 60 voices in five 12-part choirs, a staggering achievement.


As for Spem in alium , Keyte introduces a novel idea that is beyond my grasp. He says that “Tallis has four choirs of 10 [voices], though, like Striggio, he sets them out in convenient clef-groupings, which gives the false impression of eight five-voice groups.” Previous recordings in surround sound have clearly assumed that there are eight five-voice ensembles. Keyte has edited Tallis’s motet to distribute the 40 parts among solo voices and instruments, similar to the performance of Striggio’s Mass and motet here.


Striggio scores his 40 voices with considerable sense of drama. The first Kyrie uses only one choir, then moves from one choir to the next until all five choirs join together at “Glorificamus te.” The full ensemble is used in the Credo only for “Et resurrexit tertia die” and the triumphal “Et unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.” (This was the era of the Counter-Reformation, after all.) The Sanctus builds up to a full-ensemble “Hosanna in excelsis,” then a single choir for “Benedictus” and a reprise of the big “Hosanna.” The ultimate in dramatic effect comes as the Agnus Dei leads into the second “Agnus Dei” for 60 voices.


Unlike previous recordings of either motet, all three of these works are performed with combined voices and instruments. The instruments are not doubling the voices but taking vocal lines assigned to them in each of the five choirs. Collectors who are familiar with I Fagiolini will wonder how Robert Hollingworth managed this with his little ensemble. He readily acknowledges the participation of members of Fretwork, the Rose Consort of Viols, the English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, and the City Musick.


Also on the program are seven madrigals and intermedi, also first recordings; a lute piece by the contemporary Vincenzo Galilei; and the first recording (surprisingly) of the chant responsory Spem in alium from the Sarum use. Perhaps it is not surprising, since the responsory does not supply a cantus firmus for Tallis’s motet.


It seems a shame not to issue this in Super Audio. Instead, a DVD is supplied with a “making-of” video narrative and audio-only tracks of the Mass and the two motets in 5.1 surround sound. If you have such a DVD player but not an SACD player, of course, that is the perfect solution, but this disc would have been an excellent candidate for SACD. In any case, this issue is a triumphant success. It is a must for anyone who is interested in Tallis’s Spem in alium , both for the novel interpretation of that motet and for the events surrounding its composition. Not to be missed.


FANFARE: J. F. Weber


----------

This is one of those releases which only comes along once in a blue moon - a newly rediscovered Renaissance masterpiece given its first commercial recording after a good deal of hard work and scholarly research and serious decision-making. ‘The Making of Striggio’ documentary explains pretty much all you would want to know about Alessandro Striggio and the context of the music on this recording. Born in Mantua, Striggio was based both there and as a member of the Medici court in Florence. The 40 part Ecce beatem lucem is already well known from its 1980 edition by Hugh Keyte, and formed the basis of the Mass on Ecco sì beato giorno. This was written as a gift for the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II, all part of a certain amount of political manoeuvring which involved Striggio travelling as far as London, where evidence strongly suggests his settings were an influence on events in England, resulting in Tallis writing Spem in Alium. The Mass was believed lost for many years, and only uncovered in Paris quite recently by Davitt Moroney.

As Robert Hollingworth points out in the DVD, there is no qualitative choice to be made between Striggio’s music and Tallis’s in the same field. The Striggio settings pre-date Spem in alium by a number of years and inhabit a different stylistic time and space. Hollingworth has ‘gone down the Munich route’, taking the illustrations and documentation of known performances of the Mass with a large array of instruments. This serves to enrich an already mighty feast of vocal noise, and the initial impact of the music makes you feel as if you could levitate on its luxuriant sound with relative ease. Striggio’s Missa Ecco sì beato giorno is where most of the attention will be focussed with this release. It is a mesmerising sequence of often slowly moving harmonies. The large scale of the forces used and the acoustic in which they are working unite these elements into an organic whole. Compared with Tallis the harmonic language is indeed relatively conservative, but is certainly not lacking in colour and drama. There are points at which the contrasts of transparency and the full force of the entire ensemble have a telling effect for instance in those breathtaking tutti moments and in the Gloria. There the music shifts in fluid motion between soloists and individual choirs.

This recording has brought together representatives from numerous early music specialist ensembles such as Fretwork and the Rose Consort, but the performance doesn’t shy away from full-blooded projection, and the vocalists are given free rein to let loose with plenty of vibrato when everyone is giving their all. This recording may indeed even serve as a substitute hair-dryer when all voices are in full flow. Tastes will no doubt differ on this subject. My opinion is that such a huge body of sound needs the weight of ‘proper singing’, and that the moments where a little more restraint helps the sense of contrast between vast-scale music-making and more intimate episodes have been used sensibly. Take the gentler opening of the Sanctus, where there is a good deal of reserve and subtle shading in the colour of the singing, the richer choral sound held back until later on. This is one of those pieces for which you need to abandon your modern sense of time and enter an entirely different world. Events unfold slowly and grow and develop at a more monumental pace than the relatively compact Tallis work. In part of the documentary the sound engineer mentions a balance which has to be struck between clarity and overall perspective; indeed, the words of the Mass are less easily followed the more voices are thrown at them. This however is not really the point. It is the import; the meaning and religious feeling behind the words which is decisive, and with this piece there is no avoiding the fervour of the message in this Mass. It is a splendid masterpiece, and I feel privileged to be able to hear it.

The collection of other works which support the Mass also have plenty of interest. Striggio’s mastery of the viol is represented by a sizeable consort of these instruments backing a superb lute solo in Vincenzo Galilei’s Contrapunto Secundo di BM. Striggio in fact wrote relatively few sacred works, and the vocal pieces which follow are occasional works and examples from the composer’s books of madrigals. D’ogni gratia et d’amor was written to commemorate his visit to England, where he was received by Queen Elizabeth and the ‘virtuosi of the music profession there’. These are all fine works given impressive and richly instrumented performances, and serve to put the bigger settings into a context of what would have been more familiar fare in the courts of Renaissance Europe.

Thomas Tallis’s magnificent Spem in alium concludes the programme preceded by its plainchant version. Tallis’s work is described in the booklet notes as ‘simultaneously a tribute to Striggio and a determined effort to upstage him’. This recording is the first to use Hugh Keyte’s new edition of the work, and the forty vocal parts are simultaneously divided between accompanying viols, sackbuts, cornets and dulcians. Opinion may diverge as to whether this approach is an improvement, buy it certainly seems to be a valid interpretation, and fits in well with the sonic palette of the rest of the recording. We are more used to hearing this with the weight and impact of the voices as a unified whole, and the instruments in a way serve to diffuse this effect, providing different textures and highlighting some lines where they would otherwise have blended as part of an all-vocal homogeny. There is no shortage of voice-only Spem in alium recordings however, and with this entire release aimed at shifting our entire outlook on these period masterpieces I’m happy to have encountered this version, and though it doesn’t quite have the tear-jerking effect of the best a-cappella versions Tallis’s scrunchy dissonances and breathtaking harmonic progressions do sound wonderful, and provide a fitting conclusion to the programme.

The extra DVD not only offers a neat little documentary on this production, but also has 5.1 surround sound mixes of the performances of all of the 40-part pieces, the effect of which results in your feeling as if you are sitting at the centre of all of the choirs and instruments. On a good system the effect of this can be quite overwhelming, the shifting movement of vast sounds crossing your auditory horizon like the shadows of clouds moving across a beautiful, gently undulating landscape.

All in all this is an adventurous and truly magnificent release, and one which no lover of good choral music should be without.

– Dominy Clements, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Ecce beatam lucem by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
2.
Missa "Ecco sì beato giorno" by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
3.
Contrapuncto secondo by Vincenzo Galilei
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century 
4.
Fuggi, Spene Mia by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
5.
O Giovenil Ardire by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
6.
Altr'io Queste Spighe by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
7.
D'ogni Gratia Et D'amor by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
8.
O De La Bella Etruria by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
9.
Caro Dolce Ben Mio by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
10.
Misero Ohime by Alessandro Striggio
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 16th Century; Italy 
11.
Spem in alium by Anonymous
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
12.
Spem in alium by Thomas Tallis
Conductor:  Robert Hollingworth
Orchestra/Ensemble:  I Fagiolini
Period: Renaissance 
Written: after 1559; England 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  2 Customer Reviews )
 Five Stars for the MUSIC-Two Stars for the DVD do July 10, 2012 By Clifford H C. (Thompson, MB) See All My Reviews "Striggio's Mass in 40 parts is remarkable piece of work. The choir is separated into five separate sections and each choir section is matched with a particular set of instruments giving amazing textural contrasts. The music moves in long harmonic phrases while other voices and instruments product elaborate flowing harmonies in quick rhythms. The performance is impeccable, and the blend voices and instruments show excellent balance. The music moves from a single delicate voice with a broken consort of viols to 60 voices with instruments. The only disappointment with this disk set is the DVD. The DVD will not play on North American players. The DVD is PAL format (European format). This is a disappointment; I was looking forward to listening to the surround sound version of the Mass. It is playable on the computer but not on a standalone DVD or Blueray Player." Report Abuse
 UNIQUE EXPERIENCE....A "MUST HAVE" December 21, 2011 By victor saldivar (SAN ANTONIO, TX) See All My Reviews "i'LL JUMP ON IT AS SOON AS IT IS PUBLISHED IN "SACD" AND OR BLUERAY FORMATS. I TRUST IT WILL BE SOON.
KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK."
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