Rovigo: Missa Dominicalis, Mottetti, Canzoni

Cappella Musicale di S. Barbara, Umberto Forni
67:02
Tactus TC 541801

This a live concert recording (complete with audience presence and applause at the end) of a five-part mass by Rovigo, using the composer’s complete instrumental canzonas and two motets to create a semblance of a liturgical reconstruction. The live nature of the recording means that there is a fair amount of background and occasionally foreground noise, in the manner of a you-tube video, as well as a couple of fluffed notes, but the structure of the programme and the generally excellent standard of the performance as well as the rarity of the music meant that I found it easy to overlook these shortcomings. As not a single note of Rovigo’s organ music has survived, the performance opens with a flamboyant Toccata by Merulo, but after that the music is all Rovigo’s, and of a consistently high standard. Regarded in his lifetime as on a par with Monteverdi, while the latter’s stock has inexorably risen the former has sunk into obscurity, and this CD is a useful reminder of the ‘lesser’ composers of the second half of the 16th century. The five-part Missa Dominicalis  is a work of imagination and considerable musicality, while the lighter canzonas are also delicately inventive. He was employed at the sumptuous court of Mantua, being headhunted temporarily by the Duke of Bavaria, who also supported a musical establishment of considerable prestige. Clearly Rovigo was greatly valued in his own lifetime, and the present engaging cross-section of his work shines a useful spotlight on this forgotten figure. The CD ends with an impressive eight-part polychoral setting of Laudate Dominum, suggesting that there may be a further wealth of unexplored material awaiting modern performance.

D. James Ross