Cavalli: Missa 1660

Galilei Consort, Benjamin Chénier
Château de Versailles Spectacles CVS006

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Part of the growing series of DVDs and CDs recorded in Versailles Palace and featuring the very finest of European early music performers, this programme, recorded in the Palace Chapel Royal is a reconstruction of the Mass celebrated in Venice in 1660 to mark the signing of the Treaty of Paris which prepared the way for the marriage between Louis XIV and the Infanta of Spain. This reconstruction presents Cavalli’s magnificent concertante setting of the mass ordinary from Musiche Sacre with liturgical interpolations from a couple of his other publications. The performers go all out for the lavish, with elaborate fireworks from a pair of cornets and decoration of the string parts, while the Chapel Royal acoustic emphasises the dramatic juxtaposition of contrasting textures between the flamboyantly showy and the contemplatively intimate. Just occasionally the upper vocal soloists employ more vibrato and less precision than I am comfortable with, but there is always a fine sense of drama. When Peter Holman recorded the Mass in 1997 with Seicento and The Parley of Instruments (Hyperion CDA 66970) he was apparently unaware of the documentation linking it to the 1660 celebrations, and their performance is less flamboyant, using just eight solo voices and more modest instrumentation, but it is markedly more focussed and detailed than the present French account. While I enjoyed the unashamed theatricality of the latter, I found myself occasionally yearning for the beautifully nuanced solo singing of Seicento.

D. James Ross

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