Amante Franzoni: Vespers for the Feast of Santa Barbara

Accademia degli invaghiti, Concerto Palatino, Francesco Moi
63:04
Brilliant Classics 95344

Amante Franzoni, a contemporary of Claudio Monteverdi, worked as a composer and musician for the Gonzaga family in Mantua, and the present recording is a reconstruction of Vespers for the Feast of Santa Barbara, using Franzoni’s choral settings, instrumental inserts and relevant plainchant. The performers give a nod in the direction of Franzoni’s more illustrious contemporary by opening the proceedings with Monteverdi’s familiar setting of Domine ad adiuvandum  featuring the famous Orfeo  toccata. This invites a comparison between Franzoni’s music and Monteverdi’s, and throughout the service we are treated to music for cori spezzati, smaller groups and instruments which is certainly in the same league as Monteverdi. Given the fact that Franzoni spent his whole working life in the employ of the wealthy and demanding Gonzaga family, we should hardly be surprised at the high quality of his music, and it is perhaps a result of the prominence of Monteverdi that the likes of Franzoni have been overlooked. There is some lovely singing and playing on this CD, although occasionally a little more passion would have helped things on their way. Apart from the fact that the recording was made in 2010 in Mantua, we are given no details of the recording venue, and to my ears a little bit more resonance would have given Franzoni’s music more of an epic sound such as it would have had in Mantua’s Basilica of Santa Barbara where Franzoni worked. I know of at least one attempt to present Monteverdi’s Vespers music in the context of a service for Saint Barbara, and it is encouraging to see this Italian ensemble exploring the music of a relatively unknown master rather than just giving us yet another account of the Monteverdi.

D. James Ross

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