G. GABRIELI Canzona “Sol sol la sol.” Audite principes. Angelus ad pastores. Salvatore noster. Sonata pian’ e forte. O Magnum mysterium. BASSANO Hodie Christus natus est. MONTEVERDI Exultent caeli. Magnificat • John Eliot Gardiner, cond; Monteverdi Ch; Salisbury Cathedral Boys’ Ch; Philip Jones Br Ens; Monteverdi O; David Munrow Rec Ens • DECCA ELOQUENCE 480Read more 6556 (67:47)
The Magnificat from John Eliot Gardiner’s well-regarded 1975 version of Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Vergine 1610 was appended to Gardiner’s 1972 recording of Gabrieli, Bassano, and Monteverdi, making an attractive release even more desirable. Monteverdi’s Magnificat, the most substantial work on the program, was, at the time, the most elaborate setting of that venerable hymn ever composed, a grand culmination of the splendorous musical tradition of Saint Mark’s in Venice. That tradition was brought to its high state by Giovanni Gabrieli, curiously never, like Monteverdi, the maestro di cappella of the cathedral but only its first organist. Between these two giants, Giovanni Bassano might easily be lost. He was the director of Saint Mark’s instrumental ensemble, and evidently a capable composer himself.
At that point in time musical ensembles had not been standardized, hence the formidable list of performers in our headnote. I haven’t even named the 11 vocal soloists involved or the eight instrumentalists who contribute to the continuo. Suffice it to say you would probably recognize some of the names, and all perform admirably. You may also notice that the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble is prominently listed, and may correctly deduce from this that the recording pre-dated Gardiner’s commitment to period instruments in ancient music. Upon listening, you might also conclude that Gabrieli just sounds better on modern trumpets and trombones, and I’d be inclined to agree with you. In these performances Gardiner does not hold anything back. He gives us full-throated singing and full-bore brass playing—and the music jumps to life. The title of the release is “Christmas in Venice.” As I’ve cautioned elsewhere in this issue, it won’t sound like Christmas to non-specialists. But it will certainly give you a welcome jolt of holiday spirit. Heartily recommended.
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