Bassani: Armonici Entusiasmi di Davide

Nova Ars Cantandi, Giovanni Acciai
123′ (2 CDs)
Tactus TC 650290

This world premiere recording of the composer’s op. 9 set of Vespers psalms “a quattro voci con violini, e suoi ripieni, con altri salmi a due e trè voci con violini” (printed in 1690 by Giuseppe Sala in Venice) should draw attention to a much neglected composer. Performed by an all-male ensemble (apart from Ivana Valotti on organ!), the entire contents of the volume are performed in the original sequence and not as part of a reconstructed service. After the Domine ad adiuvandum (2 sopranos, 2 violins, BC), the psalms are Dixit Dominus (tutti), Confitebor tibi Domine (SB, 2 violins, BC), Beatus vir (tutti), Laudate pueri (CAB, 2 violins, BC), Laudate Dominum omnes gentes (tutti), Laetatus sum (SSB, 2 violins, BC), Nisi Dominus (SAB, 2 violins, BC), and Lauda Jerusalem (tutti), and there are settings of the Magnificat and the Litaniae Beate Virginis Mariae. There being only four named singers, Nova Ars Cantandi (“a new way of singing”?) have obviously opted not to include ripieni in their performances of the larger works, and one is left to assume that the alto takes the 2nd soprano part in the two pieces that require one.

The performances is well paced and nicely recorded. The booklet notes are extensive, which is all the more surprising since little is known of the composer’s life apart from the places where he worked and the dates of such employment; I think the claim that composers such as Cazzati, Legrenzi and Colonna “were the first to give up the sixteenth century practice of ‘singing and playing with all sorts of instruments’ and to promote the emergence of a new kind of composition in which the concertante instrument could interact, at last, with the vocal parts, imitating their phrases of porposing new ones” is a little odd – surely Monteverdi and his contemporaries several generations earlier had already done that. The translation is by far the best I have seen from Tactus, yet there are still some little things that could be improved (and would have been easily spotted by a native speaker!); sonate a tre is rendered “trio sonata”, for example, and since we don’t really have a modern expression matching maestro di cappella, leave it in Italian rather than translating it into German! These are very minor points in an otherwise excellent presentation of some fine music.

Brian Clark