Gabrieli for Brass: Venetian Extravaganza

Royal Academy of Music and Juilliard School Brass, Reinhold Friedrich
76:37
Linn CKD 581

Your enjoyment of this CD depends on the degree to which you crave authenticity. These are performances of music composed for sackbuts and cornetts around the beginning of the 17th century on modern brass instruments: valved trumpets and trombones. Given the change of medium, the trumpet players approach the cornett parts with integrity inasmuch as they decorate the lines with scampering passaggi, as would their cornettist forebears. The playing is wonderfully musical and impressive, with impeccable intonation and phrasing, and a wonderful depth of tone, while the fleet-of-lip trumpeters impress with their valved virtuosity. I found I couldn’t really settle to the overall sound and yearned for actual cornetts, but maybe that’s just me. Certainly, in addition to the expected Giovanni Gabrieli (including his stunning 1615 22-part Sonata XX), we have enterprisingly more unusual repertoire such as canzonas by Lappi, Frescobaldi and Massaino, a sinfonia by Viadana, and sonatas by Buonamente and Gussago. A delicate account on trumpets of Gabrieli’s Sonata con tre violini is unexpectedly charming, while the account of the 22-part Sonata, with which the CD ends, sounds – on the modern instruments – like Bruckner or Richard Strauss! It is good that these clearly gifted young brass get a taste of where their instruments’ repertoire started out from, and it is a mark of the superlative quality of the music of Giovanni Gabrieli and his contemporaries that it works so well on a parallel modern medium. And it has to be said that St Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead provides a very good impression of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice!

Brian Clark

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