Monday, 13 October 2014

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Concerto Italiano directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini bring a feast of Monterverdi in an imagined Vespri Solenni per la Festa di San Marco on a new release from Naïve

Rinaldo Alessandrini, renowned as a recitalist on the harpsichord, fortepiano and organ and considered one of the most authoritative interpreters of Monteverdi, founded Concerto Italiano which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year.

Rinaldo Alessandrini is worldwide. His profound knowledge and love of the Italian repertoire is naturally reflected in programmes in which he seeks to reproduce the essential, but often elusive, expressive and cantabile elements so fundamental to Italian music in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The ensemble’s current schedule features sacred music by Handel, Scarlatti, Legrenzi, Vivaldi, Melani, Pergolesi, and Stradella; instrumental works by Bach, Vivaldi, Corelli, Geminiani, Locatelli, and Rossini; and secular vocal music by Monteverdi, Marenzio, De Wert, Charpentier, Nenna, and De Monte.

In celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini returns to his preferred composer, in the magnificent Basilica of Mantua, with a recording for Naïve of an imagined Vespri Solenni per la Festa di San Marco (Vespers Service for San Marco) assembled from various parts of the Selva Morale. This represents a first step in the recording of the Selva morale e spirituale, a collection of sacred music by Monteverdi, published in Venice in 1640, to be completed in the coming years.

CD + bonus DVD
OP 30557

Selva morale e spirituale contains various forms of sacred music, from madrigals to a complete Mass, varying between a single voice to eight voices with instruments. The collection also contains Marian hymns such as the Magnificat in two versions and three settings of Salve Regina.

On this new release sections of the Selva morale are interspersed in the appropriate places with motets by Monteverdi, instrumental sonatas by Giovanni Gabrieli (c.1554/1557-1612), Francesco Usper (1561-1641) Usper and Giovanni Battista Buonamente (c.1595-1642) as well as plainchant  Antiphona and a grand opening Responsorium from Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers.

Even though much of the music was written after Monteverdi’s employment by Vincenzo I, Duke of Mantua from c.1590 to 1612, the venue, the basilica of Santa Barbara, Mantua, Italy, as an alternative to St. Mark’s itself, is appropriate given its links to the composer and its architecture and acoustics.

The Vespers open with the fine voice of tenor Gianluca Ferrarini in the Responsorium: Deus in adiutorium meum intende from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610, to which the choir and instrumental ensemble of Concerto Italiano join in some of the best of this composer’s ceremonial liturgical style. Concerto Italiano, consisting of a small ensemble of eight singers and an ensemble of just fourteen instrumentalists, provide a very fine sound in the acoustic of the basilica of Santa Barbara, Mantua. Alessandrini brings a real blend of fine textures from both choir and instrumental ensemble. In fact, to call the vocal ensemble a choir does it less than justice given the individual strength and qualities of the voices.

It is Gianluca Ferrarini who returns for the Antiphona: Egregrius Christi petrus apostolus, as he does in all of the Antiphona, before Psalmus 109: Dixit Dominus, the first of the pieces from Monteverdi’s Selva Morale, 1640. The choir supported by the splendid sounds of the instrumental ensemble provide some gorgeous textures and harmonies with particularly fine individual voices blending finely together and some terrific rasping, brass textures from the instrumental ensemble. There is much felicitous, flexible singing from individual voices.

Concerto Italiano provide many lovely subtleties in the beautifully played music instrumental Sonata in loco antiphonae: Canzon ottava a 8 from Giovanni Gabrieli’s Canzoni e sonata, 1615 before Ferrarini returns for the Antiphona: Doctrinam apostolicam evangeliste marco committens.

There follows a lively, buoyant Psalmus 110: Confitebor tibi domine from Selva Morale with the fine voice of soprano Anna Simboli, soon joined by tenor Luca Dordolo who also brings a fine, flexible voice. When bass, Matteo Bellotto joins he has a rich and secure tone. Together with the beautifully nuanced instrumental accompaniment these singers blend extremely well together.

Motectus in loco antiphonae: Christe adoramus te is the first of Monteverdi’s motets from his Bianchi, Libro primo mottetti of 1620 where Concerto Italiano bring lovely sonorities of both voice and instruments in this melancholy piece. After the Antiphona: Ad hec disponente dei gratia comes Psalmus 111: Beatus vir (Selva Morale) which has a lovely lightness of texture, a lovely sprung buoyancy with the voices nicely set against the instruments, these singers showing a fine flexibility of voice.

Fine brass timbres combine with the other instrumentalists, including the deep rich resonances of the archlute, in Francesco Usper’s Sonata in loco antiphonae: Sonata a 8 from his Composizioni armoniche Op.3 (1619). These really are fine players brining out all of the lovely textures of the music.

Another Antiphona, Beate sancta marce, follows, again with the fine clear voice of Gianluca Ferrarini before Psalmus 112: Laudate pueri (Selva Morale) which brings some lovely blending of individual voices in the opening and later, slower passages before the music picks up its rhythmic bounce with each of these fine singers providing a terrific voice. Towards the end there is some particularly fine singing in the difficult intricate decorations.

Another of Monteverdi’s motets from his Bianchi, Libro primo dei mottetti of 1620 is Motectus in loco antiphonae: Cantate domino, a brilliantly lithe, rhythmically sprung work with glorious long held textural phrases. After the Antiphona: Sancte evangelista marce comes Psalmus 116: Laudate dominum (Selva Morale, 1640). It is lovely how Alessandrini moves from quiet, controlled passages for a single soloist with lute to the impressive choral and instrumental passages.

Giovanni Battista Buonamente’s attractive Sonata in loco antiphonae: Sonata a 6 per violin, cornetto, tre trombone at liuto tiorbato from his Sonate, et canzon…libro sesto (1636) brings some fine string and wind sounds before we turn to another piece from Monterverdi’s Selva Morale, the Hymnus: Athleta Christi bellinger. It brings more fine individual singing from tenors, Raffaele Giordani, Luca Dordolo and bass, Salvo Vitale as this ensemble weave their lovely vocal sounds, so finely accompanied by the strings of Concerto Italiano, with some lovely, subtle little harmonic shifts.

The Versus/responsorium: Pulchra facie et alacri vultu/deprecare, pastor bone  brings back Raffaele Giordani together with tenor Gianluca Ferrarini and bass, Matteo Bellotto providing  a lovely blend in this attractive plainchant, beautifully controlled, not to mention very fine individual contributions.

Gianluca Ferrarini shows his impressive range in the lower rich textures of Antiphona: Post angelicam allocutionem before the final Magnificat Primo a 8. Voci & due violini & quarto viole ouero Quattro Tromboni quali in accidente si ponno lasciare again from Monteverdi’s Selva Morale of 1640. This Magnificat has a terrific opening with full ensemble as many fine passages with groups of these fine singers and quieter instrumental moments, contrast with the rich outpourings of Monteverdi’s more dynamic music. There is a wonderful blending of Monteverdi’s individual instruments with individual voices and more fine individual flexibility of voice before the glorious conclusion.

This ‘imagined’ Vespri Solenni per la Festa di San Marco is a fine achievement by Rinaldo Alessandrini and his terrific Concerto Italiano. So many of the pieces here stand as great works in their own right and, as an overall group, stand extremely well together.

This release comes with a bonus DVD, The Human and the Divine, a 51 minute film (with sub-titles in English and French) by Claudio Rufa that is a feast in more ways than one with shots of Mantua’s beautiful architecture and paintings, extended musical extracts, food from Monteverdi’s time being prepared and served as part of an informal gathering to discuss Monteverdi and his developing style.

The recording from the Basilica of Santa Barbara, Mantua, Italy is first class and there are excellent notes by Rinaldo Alessandrini together with full texts and French and English translations.

All in all this is a release that should not be missed.

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