Sheet music

Requiems by Giovanni Croce and Giovanni Rovetta

The Requiem Mass at St Mark’s, Venice, in the Seventeenth Century
Edited by Jonathan R. J. Drennan
Recent Researches in the Music of the Baroque Era, 238
xvii, six plates + 50pp $140
ISBN 978-1-9872-0865-8

This is the first of three volumes surveying Requiem settings at the basilica of San Marco from the 17th to the 19th centuries. After a detailed introduction, Drennan presents the two settings in the traditional A-R format, meaning that my usual gripes about wasted space and dumbing down of time signatures apply. Both works are written for ATTB choir and were intended to be sung from the bigonzo, a large raised “tub” (the edition includes two excellent photographs of the space); only Croce’s setting splits into two groups – and even then only for the Dies irae. Several pages could have been saved if, instead of printing eight staves every time one choir answered the other (on p. 21 meaning Choir 1 has ONE BAR at the end of the page), they were simply both presented on four staves and clearly labelled. This almost certainly have meant that the Sanctus and Agnus Dei would have appeared on an opening, rather than over two pages. Rovetta adds continuo to his setting but – again – space could have been saved (by printing the chant as a single line, for example!) and those two last movements would fit a spread. The music itself is written in the stile antico; polyphony is limited but both composers know how to use rhythm to keep their music interesting while fulfilling the necessity to declaim the text clearly. Both settings are extremely brief; Drennan suggests that has more to do with restrictions set by church authorities than the composers.

Brian Clark

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