Alessandro Melani: Music for the Pauline Chapel of Santa Maria Maggiore

Collegium Musicum Yale University, Second Series:
Volume 22
Edited by Luca Della Libera
A-R Editions, Inc.
XVI, 2, 208pp. $330
ISBN 978-0-89579-866-4, ISSN 0147-0108

This volume contains nine pieces for a service in the Pauline Chapel in one of Rome’s most important chapel which became known as the “Salve” on account of the frequent use of the Marian antiphon, Salve Regina. The most substantial – as much by virtue of the length of the text as anything else – are four settings of the Litanie per la Beata Vergine. Three of them use a two-choir format, contrasting one SSATB grouping with a standard SATB line-up; this oversimplifies the scheme, though, as Melani is the master of mix and match, sometimes juxtaposing just the upper voices of both choirs, or just the top sopranos of each. Two of the Marian antiphons are similarly scored (and equally impressive), while the others contrast a fairly virtuosic solo soprano line with the tutti grouping. Without exception, these well-written pieces are all very worth performing. There is one slight problem with such an endorsement: my jaw literally fell open when I saw the price of the volume. I can only hope that A-R Editions offer off-prints of the separate works at reasonable prices; it would be a tragedy if Della Libera and his colleagues had put so much hard work into the preparation of these beautiful new scores, only for them to be confined to the shelves of the world’s elite libraries.

Brian Clark