Sisto Reina: Armonia Ecclesiastica, Opera Quinta, 1653

Concentus Vocum, Michelangelo Gabbrielli
Tactus TC 621801

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]isto is a composer new to me. He seems to have been one of many ordained composers of church music who moved throughout Italy during the 17th century, visiting important centres such as Modena and Bologna, but also smaller musical establishments. Vital in the dissemination of musical ideas, such composers inhabited the grey area between providing rather mundanely adequate liturgical music and making a genuinely original contribution to musical history. Sisto’s music seems better than mundanely adequate, but not much. The performances by Concentus Vocum are variable. The accounts by the full choir struggle with some of the more fleet figures in the writing, while unanimity of attack and intonation are also a problem. In the manner of singers who are ‘only just hanging in there’, everything is unrelentingly loud and punchy which gets a bit wearing. Some of the motets are sung by solo voices, which addresses the unanimity issues and solves many but not all of the accuracy problems. This CD provides a useful profile of Reina Sisto, but much of the singing is just a little uncomfortable to listen to and I found the limited interest in Sisto’s music insufficient to hold my attention.

D. James Ross

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