Capella Musicale di Santa Barbara, Umberto Forni
This sequence of music for two choirs and instruments by Amante Franzoni was published in 1613 while he was employed as maestro di cappella at the Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua and seems to constitute service music for St Barbara. It is recorded live in the cavernous acoustic of the Basilica itself, lending proceedings a certain authority, and indeed the recording begins with an audible tumble-weed moment as the acoustic space is established. There are also a couple of not entirely convincing cross edits, the tuning isn’t always 100% and there are a couple of instrumental fluffs as well as audience coughs and occasional unexplained ‘noises off’, but generally this is a competent performance of music which is receiving its premiere performance. Franzoni proves to be a capable polychoral composer of the post-Gabrieli school and handles his large-scale forces with confidence and creativity. We might have wished that the performers had returned to the Basilica on a later occasion without their audience and placed their microphones more opportunely for a recording, which better reflected their undoubted talents and those of Franzoni, but the present recording gives an adequate impression of what might have been. We would recall that at one time Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers were thought to be associated with the Basilica of St Barbara in Mantua, and although on a more modest scale, Franzoni’s 1613 publication seems to be a similar sort of musical enterprise.
D. James Ross
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