Allegri: Unpublished works from the manuscripts of the Collectio Altæmps

Musica Flexanima Ensemble, Fabrizio Bigotti
Tactus TC 550007
Allegri Missa “In lectulo meo” a8, Salutis humanæ sator a8, Cantata (attrib), 5 Canzone
Anerio 3 Canzone
Bonomi In lectulo meo

The three sets of partbooks which were copied for Duke Giovanni Angelo Altaemps in the early 17th century constitute the most significant set of sources for early Baroque Roman music, both polychoral and small-scale concertato. They are also a rare source for non-Frescobaldi Roman instrumental canzonas, of which five by Gregorio Allegri and three by Giovanni F. Anerio are included here. All are for two instruments and continuo and show well-developed sophistication and variety, especially those by Anerio; it is good to have them recorded here for the first time. They are played by the popular Roman combination of violin and cornett, or in two cases by two violins (oddly, there is no mention of the cornett player among the list of instrumentalists). These are the unpublished works of the CD’s title and are the only works from the Altaemps partbooks here, apart from the motet by the Flemish Bonhomme/Bonomi which provided the model for Allegri’s Mass. The latter is found in a Cappella Sistina choirbook, as are the lamentations and hymn, while the cantata is attributed to the composer in a Naples manuscript. All are competently sung, though the instrumental performances definitely outshine the vocal ones. The singing is patchy, often pedestrian and with suspect tuning but occasionally rising above that to provide convincing moments. The acoustic is overly resonant and the recording tends to emphasise the choir’s insecurities. The cantata is poorly performed, making it difficult to judge its merits; it needs a more leisurely pace and more attention to the words. There are better recordings of most of this vocal music but this is certainly worth listening to for the instrumental canzonas. The booklet does not provide texts, which is a pity, but they can be accessed on the Tactus website.

Noel O’Regan