Tudor Music Afterlives

Ensemble Pro Victoria, conducted by Toby Ward, Magnus Williamson, organ. Toby Carr, lute
Delphian DCD34295

This is Ensemble Pro Victoria’s successor to their rewarding recording of music celebrating the quincentenary of Fayrfax, which I reviewed. And a very successful successor this album is too. The premise on which it is based might seem a tad academic, but it produces a fascinatingly varied yet coherent programme of music, containing some staggeringly fine pieces, excellently performed.

All these pieces are caught in their afterlife, and are presumed or known to have had a prior existence. There are several strands to this programme: “extreme” reconstructions of some of Sheppard’s many fragmentary psalm settings; reconstructions of sections of longer motets that survive only as solo songs with lute accompaniments; a reconstruction of a partsong by Robert Parsons – the stunningly beautiful When I look back – from isolated partbooks and a lute intabulation; Continental motets and chansons that have made their way over to England; excerpts from Ludford’s Lady Masses; two motets with only Elizabethan attributions to Taverner, who died over a dozen years before she ascended the English throne; and a famous work by Tallis – successively a fantasia, O sacrum convivium and finally (among other contrafacta) I call and cry – that seemingly began life as an instrumental work for a consort of viols, with an afterlife serving both the Roman and English Churches.

Musically the most interesting works are the two attributed to Taverner and the motet by Clement. It is unlikely that anyone listening to a “blind tasting” of Quemadmodum would guess that it is by Taverner; indeed, of its five surviving sources, two are anonymous, one ascribes it to Tye, and the other two to Taverner. All these sources are Elizabethan, and none provide any text beyond the initial word. The text of Psalm XLI can be fitted to the notes, so it is reasonable to conclude that it was composed as a motet but was performed instrumentally during its Elizabethan afterlife. What is beyond dispute is that it is one of the most strikingly beautiful works from the Tudor period. In the same class is O splendor gloriae which has Elizabethan ascriptions both to Taverner alone and jointly – respectively the first and second sections – to him and Tye (that man again!). It seems credible that the latter is accurate: either a work on which the two composers agreed to collaborate, or one that Taverner left unfinished and Tye completed; it is even possible that two independent compositions were at some point yoked together, as for instance seems to be the case with the two parts of Byrd’s anthem Arise O Lord/Help us O God albeit they are by the same composer. Clement’s Job tonso capite simply illustrates why he is among the finest composers of his own and of all time.

Musicologically the most interesting works are the five settings by Sheppard of Sternhold and Hopkins’ metrical psalms. These will be published in the forthcoming volume of Sheppard’s complete vernacular music in Early English Church Music, edited by Stefan Scot. Except in one case, only the upper voice of the original four survives for each of these 48 pieces, but the “extreme reconstruction” by Magnus Williamson mentioned above has produced five credible pieces of music for this disc. Given the constraints of a CD booklet it is good that Magnus has been able to summarise the process of reconstruction for each individual psalm. Meanwhile in the Mulliner Book there is an arrangement for keyboard of Sheppard’s setting of Psalm I, The Man is Blest, which, in the words of Stefan Scot, “permits a reconstruction and indicates something of the style of the remaining choral psalms.” Academia Musica Choir, conducted by Aryan O. Arji, recorded all of Sheppard’s Collected Vernacular Works on two discs (Priory PRCD 1081 and 1108, 2013 and 2015) and The Man is Blest is the first track on volume II. Mulliner’s arrangement is played on the organ by Michael Blake (who is scandalously uncredited!) on volume I, track 8.

The two Kyrie movements from different Lady Masses for three voices by Ludford perhaps fall within the category of worthy, albeit pleasantly so, and are enhanced by verses played on the organ by Magnus Williamson employing authentic methods of improvisation on given melodies called “squares”, but the third such movement, Alleluia. Veni electa mea, is, in modern colloquial parlance, an absolute belter, for all its brevity. Like the motet by Clement mentioned above, it illustrates why Ludford takes his seat at the same table as Clement himself, beside Sheppard, Lassus, Taverner, Tye and Tallis, to name only composers present on this disc.

Ensemble Pro Victoria sing all this varied music consistently well, be it plainsong or the augmented forces assembled for O splendor gloriae. I was concerned that the full-throated sound exhibited in some tracks on their disc of Fayrfax might be reproduced here and overwhelm the more understated material. This proves not to be the case. The performances and interpretations, whether assertive, neutral or restrained, are appropriate to each item. Toby Carr’s occasional contributions on the lute with the singers provide both variety of texture and authenticity. The organ played by Magnus Williamson, mentioned above, was built by Goetze and Gwynn in 2002 for the Early English Organ Project, and embodies evidence from fragments of pre-Reformation organs discovered in Suffolk. This combination of cutting-edge scholarship and outstanding performance gives us a recording of the highest quality, apt for edification and pleasure.

Richard Turbet


Kuhnau: Complete Sacred Works VIII

Opella Musica, camerata lipsiensis, Gregor Meyer
cpo 555 460-2

Although the title announces that this is Vol VIII of the Complete Sacred works, this final volume in the eight-CD set of all Kuhnau’s surviving vocal music is entitled ‘Complete Vocal Works Vol. 8’. The last volume I saw was 5, which I reviewed in Feb of 2020, since then Vol. 6 appeared in 2021 and Vol. 7 must have come in since. By contrast with all the earlier CDs, the contents of this final one are largely secular.

Christian Weise, the head of the Gymnasium at Zittau, was Kuhnau’s teacher and mentor, and Weise elaborated the potentially dramatic stories of the entwined relationships between the patriarchal families in the chapters of Genesis as school plays, providing a part for every student. As a 22-year old, Kuhnau was holding the musical fort in Zittau, and his music for this play Von Jacobs doppelter Heyrath (Zittau, 1682) survives in Weise’s collected works.

They are insertions not unlike Purcell’s The Fairy Queen and King Arthur. As well as these dramatic settings, there is a setting of Psalm 3 (which Purcell set likewise as Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes), Ende gut und alles gut – an extended setting of a Neumeister text for soprano, bass, violin and continuo, a group of three arias, perhaps for an outside celebration, and a Latin chamber cantata for two sopranos and bass with two violins and continuo in a rather Italianate style. These forays into a consciously more secular style are less interesting to me than the cantatas, whose influence on the style and performance of Bach’s cantatas is significant. But it is good that they are included in the project.

The performances remain immaculate both in conception and execution. Meyer has worked with essentially the same musicians over this past eight years, and David Erler, the group’s alto, is indeed preparing the material for publication by Breitkopf. In an interview in the liner notes, he comments on the richness and diversity of the instrumental accompaniments, noting horns, oboes and a transverse flute, virtuoso writing for trombone, and a surprise scoring including schalmei, trombone, a harp and an echo chorus.

The net result is a homogenous blend, where single strings and single voices with a rich variety of wind are backed by the splendid Silbermann organ in Rötha, together with harp and lute in the continuo group. The clarity of the sound is wonderful: every word is clearly projected. In the secular pieces, the style is perhaps more ‘theatrical’ than in the cantatas, but that is hardly surprising and the rather lightweight text does need some boost.

This great undertaking will, I hope, remain the benchmark for all performances of Kuhnau in the future. The complementary style of singing and playing is a model, and anyone interested in learning about the background to performing Bach cantatas needs to listen carefully to both Kuhnau’s compositional techniques as well as the performance style of this excellent project, led by Gregor Meyer.

David Stancliffe


Grandi: Lætatus sum – Vesper Psalms

Accademia d’Arcadia, UtFaSol Ensemble, Alessandra Rossi Lürig
Arcana A525

If you have heard any music by Alessandro Grandi at all, it was most likely a motet for one or two voices, maybe even with a pair of violins playing ritornelli between the vocal sections, with everyone coming together only for the last few bars. This recording will come as something of a shock – although he was very much the master of the musical miniature, Grandi (who had sung as a teenager in Gabrieli’s choir at St Mark’s in Venice) was perfectly capable of deploying larger forces to splendid effect. The present recording, which benefits from full-blooded singing (with the dexterity to handle the sometimes intricate ornamentation), fabulously articulated playing, and a not-too-rich-but-ample acoustic, takes music from three publications of 1629 and 1630 that reveal just what a loss to posterity the composer’s death from plague in that latter year was. Printed in Venice, the music was almost certainly conceived for his own ensemble at Bergamo’s Santa Maria Maggiore which he had built up since his arrival there in 1627. Rodolfo Boroncini’s excellent booklet essay puts it all into its historical context. Years after we have had multiple recordings of Monteverdi’s large-scale church music – as well as Rovetta’s and Rigatti’s – finally, Grandi’s time has come and I doubt he could have found more passionate advocates than the present performers. What a beautiful CD – one I shall treasure for a long time!

Brian Clark


Handel: Chandos Anthems

Choeur & Orchestre Marguerite Louise, Gaétan Jarry
Versailles CVS072

It is difficult to envisage a location more conducive to music-making – and by extension recording – than the palace of Versailles. Do you want opera? Then make for the beautiful 18th-century Opéra Royal theatre. Or perhaps you’re more inclined to sacred music? Then stroll through a couple of ornately decorated corridors and you reach the glorious Chapelle Royale, constructed around the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries.  The launch in 2018 of a record company concentrating on recordings produced in the palace – and the Salle des Croisades has also been used for recording – was a stroke of genius rewarded by numerous accolades to individual recordings and recently a Record Company of the Year award to the label itself, testimony to the current strength of the French early music scene. 

All of which leads to the present issue, recorded in the chapel in 2021 by one of the many outstanding French ensembles to have come to the fore in recent years. Handel’s twelve Chandos anthems were composed for James Brydges, first Duke of Chandos, whose ‘manipulation’ of finances when Paymaster-General to Marlborough’s armies between 1707 and 1712 had allowed him to amass a fortune with which he built himself a lavish country house called Cannons in addition to keeping a musical establishment. Handel’s period as composer-in-residence at Cannons (1717-1718) also produced Acis and Galatea and the oratorio Esther. The Chandos anthems recorded here include ‘O be joyful in the Lord’ (HWV, 247; No. 1), ‘O sing unto the Lord a new song’ (HWV 249b; No. 4) and ‘As pants the hart’ (HWV 251b; No. 6). All three are composed for three-part orchestra and chorus (without an alto line); No. 4 also includes solos for soprano (Florie Valiquette), tenor (Nicholas Scott) and bass (Virgile Ancely), while the other two feature just soprano and tenor.

Despite David Vickers’s notes suggesting that the strength of the forces involved has been ‘reimagined’ to allow for the wonderfully expansive acoustics of the Versailles chapel, Jarry’s are in fact only marginally larger than those employed by Harry Christophers in his highly-regarded complete Chandos set of the anthems (1998-1999) with The Sixteen. A difference listeners will notice is a cultural one, for while British choirs aim for an integrated choral sound with perfect ensemble, individual character is often a hallmark of Continental choirs;  thus it is here, with Jarry’s superb Marguerite Louise singers not fearful of displaying such individualism. That’s not to suggest loose discipline in any sense and you need only listen to the manner in which the sublime slow fugal opening chorus of ‘As pants the hart’ is sustained with a so-gradual increase in tension to be aware of Jarry’s total control. Elsewhere, as in the fugal chorus ‘Serve the Lord’ (from No. 1), there is an exuberance that blooms in the ambiance of the royal chapel, while the broad, spacious opening of the doxology of the same anthem is hugely impressive. Jarry’s soloists are splendid, with the palm perhaps going to outstanding British tenor Scott, who has most to do and is exceptional in the florid writing of the dramatic mimetic aria ‘The Waves of the Sea Rage Horribly’ from HWV 249a. And it would be an injustice not to mention the outstanding oboe playing of Neven Lesage in any number of obbligato passages.

The anthems are punctuated by Jarry’s own performances of Handel’s Voluntary in A minor and Chaconne in G minor, played on the great Cliquot organ in the Chapelle Royale. It certainly wouldn’t be my ideal choice for Handel, but Jarry’s playing is accomplished and fluent.  Strongly recommended without hesitation.

Brian Robins


The Mysterious Motet Book 1539

Siglo de Oro, Patrick Allies
Delphian DCD34284

For once the word “mysterious” used in a title is not an exaggeration or a misrepresentation. The provenance of this publication really is, and remains, a complete mystery. But first, what of the musical contents, 28 Latin motets of which twelve have been chosen for this recording? There is absolutely no mystery about the quality which, on the basis of this selection, is respectable and, in a few cases, high. Indeed, although the programme concludes with a work by Gombert and another which is attributed to him in this source but to others elsewhere – of which more below – it is pieces by lesser-known composers, or composers known better in other genres, which are the most striking. The disc opens with Salus populi ego sum, a work of seamless beauty punctuated by some delightful dissonances, composed by Pierre Cadeac. There is a fine animated setting of Haec dies by Johannes Sarton, with memorable “noe noe” refrains concluding both sections, while Postquam impleti sunt by Jhan du Bilon, after a rather bland beginning, develops with some wonderfully undulating phrases and intensifying harmonies, before releasing the tension for a satisfying close. Of the composers better known, Arcadelt’s Dum complerentur might be thought to contain more dissonances than would be expected in this context, for instance in the Alleluia, while a breath of madrigalian ethos occurs near the end at “ubi erant sedentes”. Willaert’s two items, Laetere sancta mater and Peccavi super numerum seem in these performances to be interesting rather than striking, the latter somewhat soporific beside the anguished setting by Byrd, and the disc concludes with two pieces by Gombert. Veni electa mea may not be by him, and Jacquet of Mantua receives equal billing as composer in the lists of contents, but although the relevant passage in the otherwise very informative booklet draws attention to the existence of attributions other than to Gombert, these – including Jacquet – are not explained in any further detail. The DIAMM website notes an attribution not only to Jacquet but also one to Jacques Berchem. There are settings of the similar text Veni dilecta mea by Gombert and of Veni dilecte mi by Jacquet, and the thought occurs that since identical or similar titles are a significant cause of misattributions during this period, perhaps this piece is the work of Berchem, who does not seem to have set such a text. Or, as the saying goes, not as the case may be. Judging by this performance, the work does not seem to shout that it is by either of the named composers. Nor is Laus Deo one of Gombert’s most distinguished works, always bearing in mind that even a modest work by Gombert is equal to the best works of many other composers. Perhaps in this instance the silvery sound of Siglo de Oro is less suited to the more bronze sound-world of Gombert’s music.

It remains to mention the two finest pieces on the disc. Apparens Christi is a wonderfully sustained work of over eight minutes’ duration, composed by Johannes Lupi. He shares a disc with Lupus Hellinck (Hyperion CDA68304) which I praised warmly in EMR (review published 1 February 2020) and this work confirms his status as an outstanding contributor to the Franco-Flemish repertory. Best of all on the current recording is Exsurge quare obdormis by Dominique Phinot. (There is a disc devoted to his music on Hyperion CDA67696 sung by The Brabant Ensemble.) Unlike Peccavi mentioned above, this setting really is fit to be mentioned in the same sentence as the sprightly setting by Byrd. Its luminous SAAAT scoring and minor mode, delivered with impressive momentum by Siglo de Oro, give it a hypnotic plangency, and Phinot’s sure-footed variations of texture beside his immaculate insertions of occasional striking passages of homophony within the prevailing polyphony make this motet irresistible. It is no surprise that in his booklet notes to the recording mentioned above, Roger Jacob – who is largely responsible for the modern revival of Phinot’s music – observes that “the theorist Hermann Finck in 1556 placed Phinot behind only Gombert, Clemens, and Crecquillon (and ahead of Willaert) in a list of composers he described as ‘foremost, most excellent, subtlest and, in my judgement, to be imitated’.” The evidence provided by the current recording bears this out.

The mystery in the title remains. Why was this book of blatantly Catholic music published in a blatantly Protestant city? (Significantly the motet by Phinot lauded above is one of three in the publication for which there are no known surviving manuscript sources.) Daniel Trocme-Latter offers some useful background in the accompanying booklet. Furthermore, there is certainly no comparison with the circumstances under which Byrd published either his Masses or his subsequent Gradualia in Protestant London. As the Philip Henslowe character repeats throughout Shakespeare in Love, “It’s a mystery”, and like the one in the film, this mystery looks set to remain.

Richard Turbet


Les Noces Royales de Louis XIV

Le Poème Harmonique, directed by Vincent Dumestre 
Spectacles du Château de Versailles CVS066166

Louis XIV’s wedding was part church service, part a tour of France and part peace treaty (between France and Spain). There was music of all kinds every step of the way but, sadly, details are hard to come by. Thus, this so-attractive title and concept/programme are almost entirely speculative but nonetheless constitute an attractive and well-performed anthology of the kind of music heard in French royal circles c1660.

The two major works are both sacred. Lully’s Jubilate Deo is a magnificent setting of a text compiled from several psalms and can be definitely associated with the royal wedding. Its splendour of both material and construction is the more striking when one recalls that it is the composer’s earliest surviving sacred work. Sources record that the nuptial mass itself featured music by Italian composers. Rather perversely these are evoked by a Cavalli Magnificat from his 1656 publication. Fine though this is, could we not have had at least a taste of the elaborate mass that opens that volume?

I suggested above that the performance standard of this release is high. This is true, but, as always with this director, there are questions to be asked about the performance practice of almost every item, chiefly concerning instrumentation and ornamentation which strike me as being rather ‘help yourself’.

David Hansell



Journal for the study and practice of early music
directed by Arnaldo Morelli
LIM Editrice [2020]. 242 pp, €30
ISSN 1120-5741;

The 2020 RECERCARE contains seven studies, four in English and three in Italian, all the fruit of investigative perseverance, on specific works, prints, sources, situations or occasions. The relevance of uncovered historical details intrinsic to the creation of the music itself makes each article such a rewarding read. The full documentation, often provided in appendices, has more than a supportive role: aside from the specific cases discussed, it may greatly serve other researchers. Recercare is therefore an exponential boon to musical research.

Elena Abramov-van Rijk  asksTo whom did Francesco Landini address his madrigal Deh, dimmi tu’ [‘Say, tell me you … Who do you think you are!?’] While she describes the unusual musical and poetic structure of this ballata, which we have from various sources, it is its popularity and confrontational, accusatory tone that begs for a motive. The anonymous text could well be by Landini himself (Florence, 1325-1397), and the invective directed at a contemporary he knew or who was widely known, who accumulated valuable, portable riches in ‘easy’ ways. The author finds two potential candidates, both acclaimed court entertainers, whom she refers to (unfortunately, I think) as ‘buffoons’. In fact, both probably merited their riches, gained not-so-easily at all. The ballata itself does not refer to a performer, but every word seems applicable, and the careers of both are impressive: Dolcibene de’ Tori, crowned regem ystrionum in 1355 by the Roman Emperor Charles IV and invited to perform in many other courts, was an actor and ioculator (juggler), a poet (his poems ranging from the sacred to his problems with arthritis and impotence, sometimes with scurrilous vocabulary), a composer of canzonette, a singer, an organist and lutenist, and the protagonist of nine of Franco Sacchetti’s 300 anecdotal stories. Bindo di Cione, of Siena, the other, also served Charles IV and in other courts. It is the interpretation of Landini’s famous madrigal (of ca. 1355) that suggests so vividly how these talented entertainers thrived. The complete musical transcription follows.

Patrizio Barbieri ’s ‘Music printing and selling in Rome: new findings on Palestrina, Kerle and Guidotti, 1554–1574’ discusses four newly found disparate documents, presented as four pieces of an incomplete ‘mosaic’, and lastly, the inventory of a Roman bookseller and of a musician from Cambrai which included instruments, printed or handwritten vocal works, an iron music stand used while playing the harpsichords, and an erasable slate with staves for drafting music on. The description and purpose of the editions documented, and the contracts to publish and market them, show who covered the initial expenses, and whether any assistance was offered to authors or others. The publications discussed in detail are Palestrina’s Missarum liber primus (1554) and Kerle’s hymni totius anni et Magnificat (1558-60). The musical inventory of a general Roman bookseller, Antonio Maria Guidotti, includes a great number of almost exclusively Venetian prints of vocal music, mostly madrigals, plus treatises: B. Rossetti’s 1529 Libellus De Rudimentis Musices, G. M. Lanfranco’s 1533 Scintille di musica, and G. Zarlino’s 1558-2 Le Istitutioni harmoniche. The original documents in the Appendix may be useful to others for reflections and comparisons.

Franco Pavans ‘La musica per chitarrone di Giacomo Antonio Pfender. Nuove acquisizioni’ identifies Pfender, detto il Tedeschino, as the composer of some pieces for archlute in a manuscript in the Archivio Estense in Modena (and in a facsimile)1 previously attributed to an older composer, Alessandro Piccinini (1566-1638).

Pfender is known for having collected and published two states of Kapsberger’s Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone in 1604 in Venice. They were close friends in their student days in Augsburg, and based on Kapsberger’s dates (1580-1651) they were in their early 20s in 1604. Pfender’s name reappears on designs for the frontispiece of another chitarrone collection, found in the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de san Fernando in Madrid, where he is named as one of the composers. What the two collections share is a monogram resembling a stick figure with outstretched arms, turned-out feet, and a dot for the ‘head’. It actually consists of four superimposed letters, only two of which were previously noticed: an A and a swirl from its point to the middle of its right side form a P, thus suggesting Alessandro Piccinini. There are also short lines under the A’s two ‘feet’, a wide line balanced on its point, and a central dot above that line.

Pavan brilliantly deciphered the other two letters this monogram. The left side of A and the dot form a dotted capital I preceding AP, and the wide top line uses the right side of A to make a T. İAPT stands for Giacomo (Iacomo or Ioannes) Antonio Pfender, and T for Tedesco (German).

Many more useful considerations accompany this discovery: relations between Roman musical circles and Modena, the handwriting and probable date of the tablature, and a list of its 28 pieces: of which 7, not known from other sources, are attributed to ‘HK’ (Kapsberger), 9 to ‘AP’(?), 5 to ‘İAPT’ and several unattributed. Pavan modestly considers not quite resolved whether those identified as by ‘AP’ are attributable to Piccinini or to Pfender, but after keeping readers in legitimate doubt he adds that the abbreviations HK and AP appear to be in a different hand and ink! The facsimile of the Modena manuscript names only Kapsberger, Piccinini, and G. Viviani, and its editor, Francesca Torelli, was therefore forced to remark that the styles of HK and the older AP were surprisingly similar, so perhaps they were quoting each other! It is too bad that SPES (Archivum Musicum) no longer exists, because continuing this research and revising that introduction would be quite useful.

The Appendix gives Pfender’s letter of dedication of Kapsberger’s Libro primo d’intavolatura di chitarrone. He respectfully addressed Kapsberger as his fratello osservandissimo, and signed fratello amorevolissimo, ‘very loving brother’. It is a curious dedication, since Kapsberger had apparently not requested or given permission for publication. Pfender clears his conscience by saying that he published them in order to make Kapsberger a gift of what he stole, since up to then the pieces were so universally desired that they had become donnicciuole [derogatory term for little old women], whereas now he can peacefully recognize them and accept them back!

1 G. Kapsberger – A. Piccinini – G. Vivianai, Intavolatura di chitarrone. Mss. Modena, ed. facs., introduzione di Francesca Torelli, Firenze, SPES, 1999.

In March 2019 Maddalena Bonechi’s edition of G. B. da Gagliano’s Varie musiche, libro primo, 1623 was reviewed here. Her edition includes as much biographical information on Marco da Gagliano’s less famous brother Giovanni Battista (1594-1651) as there was to discuss. It also gave analyses of the works and their texts. Her present article, ‘Parole, immagini e musica nelle pratiche devozionali della compagnia di San Benedetto Bianco a Firenze – alcuni possibili contributi di da Gagliano’ focuses on the texts, imagery and music as essential to the devotional practices of the Florentine religious confraternity to which Giovanni Battista (and possibly Marco) belonged, and relates how paintings, poetry and music were fused in their spiritual activities. Whether or not the religious compositions in Gagliano’s publication were designed for the San Benedetto Bianco congregation, at least one was performed there: Ecco ch’io verso il sangue, presumably for a theatrical enactment of the passion and death of Jesus, along with the laments of Mary, traditionally for Good Friday. Depictions of the Passion and themes exalting God in comparison with one’s own nothingness and of penitence, enhanced the ritual flagellation practices of the members, who strived to gain insight from such first-hand experience. The beauty of the music and art may indeed have attenuated the rough physical sensory input incurred to stimulate and attain this understanding.

Lucas G. Harris – Robert L. Kendrick gave a curious title,Of nuns fictitious and real: revisiting Philomela angelica (1688)’ to their fortuitous discovery and comparative analysis. A Benedictine nun, Chiara Margarita Cozzolani (1602 – ca.1677), had her 12 solo motets, Scherzi di sacra melodia, printed in score with a separate vocal part book in 1648 by Alessandro Vincenti. Only the vocal parts of this Venetian print survive. Forty years later Daniel Speer published a collection of Italian sacred works, his Philomela angelica, anagrammatically tagged “Res Plena Dei” [Daniel Speer], and attributed to ‘a Roman nun’. Speer’s print contains 24 motets, of which 6, with their continuo lines, are by Cozzolani, 3 by Cazzati, 1 duet attributed to the Ursuline nun Leonarda, and 14 not yet identifiable. What is fortunate is that in his search for Italian sacred pieces that would appeal to Lutherans in southwest Germany, Speer did have the continuo line.

By comparison of sources or by conjecture, Speer simplified the vocal writing, heavy ornamentation being out of fashion, deleted some Italian tempo or ‘mood’ indications, added string parts or sections, and slightly adapted the continuo figures to more Germanic usage. Harris and Kendrick are attempting to reconstruct Cozzolani’s originals, if they can distinguish her harmony and rhetoric from Speer’s arrangements. They have more to go by in the Cazzati and Leonarda pieces, which survive with their continuo parts.

Valerio Morucci  examines part of the private correspondence of Christine of Sweden relating to her musical patronage and employment of singers, in ‘L’orbita musicale di Cristina di Svezia e la circolazione di cantanti nella seconda metà del Seicento’. Administrative documents, such as registers and accounts, have generally gone missing, but communications with singers and with other patrons, courts, cappellas, theaters, and cities (Rome, Venice, Mantua, Modena), await researchers who follow her lead. The degree of cooperation between other courts and hers, her granting of freedom to modify agreements in order for singers to accept additional work, and to establish goodwill between competing patrons, is surprising and admirable. Even this first exploration (the Appendix presents citations from 16 documents) regarding a small number of female singers and castratos will be of interest. They include: Nicola and Antonia Coresi, Barbara Riccioni, Giuseppe Maria Donati detto il Baviera, Giuseppe Fede, Alessandro Bifolchi, Giovanni Paolo Bonelli; other castratos such as Alessandro Cecconi, Giuseppe Bianchi, Antonio Rivani, and Domenico Cecchi detto il Cortona. Some were retained with salaries while many remained absolutely independent, such as Giovanni Francesco Grossi ‘detto Siface’ and Giuseppe Maria Segni ‘detto il Finalino’.

‘Writing a tenor’s voice: Cesare Grandi and the Siena production of Il Farnaspe (1750)’ by Colleen Reardon is a vividly engaging story. The details, gleaned from 119 letters to the inexperienced sponsoring impresario, Francesco Sansedoni, regard the ultimate success of a single opera, beset by numerous potential crises as originally planned, but methodically high-jacked by the ingenious, competent, hard-working, third tenor – and not only to further the careers of his second soprano wife and himself. Cesare Grandi offered and sufficiently motivated his unsolicited advice, eventually accepted by Sansedoni, reversing or manipulating almost every artistic and practical decision – major and minor changes affecting the music itself, the casting, the staging, the order of arias and their keys, the costumes, to suit the musical taste of the patron, and the local politics, or for practical reasons like not having the orchestral parts in the right keys after an aria was shifted from its original place in the libretto or even to be sung by a different singer. Famous as Siena was and is for its two summer Palios, tied to religious holidays, Grandi even obtained a change of its July date!

The recently discovered cache of letters containing Grandi’s psychologically astute suggestions to the younger Sansedoni would probably be bewildering to decipher and interpret without the help of Reardon’s orderly, detailed account. I don’t really have a pressing reason for rereading all 40 pages of this wonderful study (plus 15 pages with 29 appended letters), but it does bear more than one reading for the pure pleasure of pondering what a staggering pastiche an opera in 1750 was: the compromises, the pressures, deadlines met, singers cast, the copying, transposing, rewriting or replacing of arias by unnamed composers – thanks to the initiatives of the third tenor…

Barbara Sachs


J. S. Bach Die Passionen

Johannes-Passion BWV 245, Fassung 1749 Gaechinger Cantorey, directed by Hans-Christoph Rademann, August 2019 (CD 1 & 2)
Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 Kammerchor & Barockorchester Stuttgart, directed by Frieder Bernius, March 2015 (CD 3, 4 & 5)
Markus-Passion BWV 247 amarcord, Kölner Akademie, directed by Michael Alexander Willens, March 2009 (CD 6)
Carus CV 83.046

This boxed set from Carus of all three surviving Bach Passions offers a chance not only to hear three very different styles of performance as they were recorded by different groups in 2009, 2015 and 2019 but allows us to sample the work of the scholarly Diethard Hellmann and Andreas Glöckner in the reconstruction of the Markus-Passion, which is presented with the actor Dominique Horowitz speaking the text of Mark’s gospel for Bach’s evangelista and turba parts that are lost.

There is a degree of ‘house style’ about the performances, and both the Johannes-Passion and the Matthäus-Passion use conventional German choirs with independent soloists singing the narration and arias rather than following what we know to have been Bach’s practice in basing the singers (however many there were) around the concertisten, adding additional ripienists as available and desirable. Not so with the Markus-Passion, where the singing is performed by the ensemble amarcord – 2 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors a baritone and 2 basses, a group established by former members of Leipzig’s Thomanerchor in 1992, which fulfils the sense of cohesion between the singing style of the arias and ensemble numbers – mostly chorales with just two choruses. The instrumental ensemble of the Kölner Akademie has 2 flauti (although I am sure they are traversi), 2 oboes and one fagotto, 2 gambas and a lute, 3 violins and a single viola, ‘cello and violone with an organ. So this performance, recorded live in the Frauenkirche Dresden in March 2009, sounds in many ways the most up-to-date with a clear bright sound, well-balanced in style and dynamic between the singers and players. I myself am glad to have heard an honest version of this work, so well reconstructed by Glöckner, without the borrowed or newly-composed material that appears in other editions.

For the John recording, though it is more recent (2019), we revert to the old German style of performance, with the (excellent) chamber choir and band of the Gaechinger Cantorey (25 singers with a string band of and 6 woodwind, so pretty equally balanced) and five independent soloists. The evangelist is the excellent and mellifluous Patrick Grahl, who also sings the arias; Peter Harvey sings the words of Christ with Matthias Winckler singing the part of Pilate and the bass arias, so we miss hearing the Vox Christi singing Mein teurer Heiland in its sprightly D major just after the death on the cross – a key part of Bach’s understanding of Johannine theology. While Benno Schach is a good alto, I myself would not have considered Elizabeth Watts a good match in either vocal quality or style for this music in this company. Despite splendid singing from Patrick Grahl and the basses, I do not find the overall style sufficiently clear to raise it above other excellent performances.

At the head of Frieder Bernius’ 2015 Matthew Passion, there is an interesting note disclosing that he found the dynamic contrasts available to him when using only single voices in the 1980s too slight. In the mid-1990s he decided to take Bach’s famous 1730 Entwurff (which is arguing for adequate resources to enable music to be performed properly in the Leipzig churches on Sundays, allowing for illness and other hazards) at its face value, claiming it as a blueprint for what Bach thought desirable for any performance. So while aiming for clarity and a good balance between vocal and instrumental sound, this recording has, like Rademann’s John, returned to larger numbers. He uses singers with strings in Chorus I, and with similar strings in Chorus II, drawing all the bit parts from the two choruses while leaving the evangelist part and all the arias from whichever chorus they are scored to a fine quartet of Hannah Morrison, Sophie Harmsen, Tilman Lichdi and Peter Harvey. Christian Immler sings just the Vox Christi. There is a fagotto with Chorus II, but not with I. The desire to match the vocal tone to that of the period instrument bands is entirely right, but not always convincing – such large numbers may give Bernius the dynamic range he likes, and it may make an exciting performance, but it does not necessarily make a good recording. Contrast this sound with that of the Matthew Passion by Pygmalion with Raphaël Pichon, reviewed in April.

Would I recommend this Carus boxed set? In many ways, it is a fine example of the current state of the performance tradition in Germany, and it is invaluable for the Markus-Passion in its latest edition. The scholarship behind all the editions is up to date and trustable, and the larger groups in the John and Matthew Passions are excellent of their kind. I am glad to have heard them and there is much to admire, but they do not belong on my must-have list.

David Stancliffe


Mondonville: Grands Motets

Choeur & Orchestre Marguerite Louise, directed by Gaétan Jarry
Versailles  Spectacles CVS 063

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This continues the invaluable Versailles Spectacles series devoted to the grand motet, large-scale psalm settings for soloists, chorus and orchestra that were the principal form of sacred music in the France of Louis XIV and Louis XV. Those of Mondonville belong among later examples, succeeding and indeed vying in popularity with those of Rameau, whose small output was the subject of the previous release in the series, performances given by the same ensemble. My review of that outstanding CD can be found on this site.

Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville was born in 1711, a member of a poor but aristocratic Languedoc family. At the age of about twenty, he went to Paris, quickly establishing himself as a composer of instrumental music and a violinist. The cover portrait of him by Quentin de la Tour depicts an agreeable and handsome man in his late 30s whose social skills won him favour at court from the likes of Mme de Pompadour. Mondonville gained a number of posts in the Chapelle Royale, including in 1739 that of master (Intendant) and his music was so successful at the famous Concert Spirituel in Paris that he became its most frequently performed composer of all time. A number of his motets were first performed there. Although Isbé (1742), his first work for the Paris Opéra, was a failure, Mondonville’s later operas achieved considerable success, the ballet-héroique Le carnaval du Parnasse (1749) in particular opening with a run of no fewer than 27 consecutive performances.

The present recording includes three of Mondonville’s nine grands motets. Of these Dominus regnavit (a setting of Psalm 93), composed in 1734, is the earliest and indeed the first of the motets, while Coeli enarrant gloriam Dei (Psalm 19) and In exitu Israel (Psalm 115), dating from 1749 and 1753 respectively are late works that represent his final examples of the genre. Of these, In exitu is an outright masterpiece, a superbly dramatic work that fully captures the grand sweep, colourful diversity and rich harmonic texture of a text that tells of the flight from Egypt. The passages narrating the miraculous crossing of the Jordan are vividly depicted, the seething swirling river parted to the stuttering wonderment of the chorus alternating between declamatory homophony and contrapuntal writing. Perhaps even more remarkable is the succeeding haute-contre solo, later with chorus, coloured by dark bassoon sonority, ‘Montes exultaverunt’ (The mountains skipped like rams’) and following rhetorical bass solo, ‘Quid est tibi, mare …? (What aileth thee, O thou sea). Also noteworthy is the Italian influence of a passage such as the soprano ariette ‘Qui timent’ (Ye that fear the Lord). The entire work bears more than eloquent testimony to Mondonville’s mature style.

Unsurprisingly neither of the other motets quite matches this quality, though the colourful text of Psalm 93, which also speaks of floods, evokes a powerful pictorial response to ‘the surges of the sea’ and praise of the ‘voices of many waters’. Coeli enarrant, planned on a less ambitious scale, opens more conventionally, but is elevated to near transcendence in a wonderful passage that speaks of God’s creative handiwork, the setting of a ‘tabernacle for the sun, which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber’. There is a marvellous sense of mystery in Mondonville’s setting, a bass solo, rising from the darkest pianissimo to full glory and the restrained entry of the chorus.    

I gave the highest praise to the performances of the Rameau motets by Gaétan Jarry and his supremely talented forces, praise that can be fully reiterated in the present case. On every level, this is another issue that demands to be heard by anyone remotely drawn to the music of the French Baroque.

Brian Robins


Enigma Fortuna

Zacara da Teramo : Complete Works
La Fonte Musica, Michele Pasotti
237:00 (4 CDs in a card box)
Alpha Classics Alpha 640

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Zacara of Teramo, AKA Antonio di Berardo di Andrea, is a kenspeckle figure who has only recently coalesced out of a number of shadowy figures of the period as a result of scholarly research into the early Italian Renaissance. (The ‘new’ Zacara now incorporates all of the first three entries under Z in J and E Roche’s excellent 1981 ‘Dictionary of Early Music’!) Active in the Brescia region, Zacara (‘Tiny’) probably acquired his nickname due to his restricted growth, while further deformities meant he had only ten digits altogether on his hands and feet, a fact unshrinkingly demonstrated in a surviving portrait. Now that a larger body of music by this one composer has been identified, he has emerged as an extremely important link between the ars subtilior of the 13th century and the music of the early Renaissance. This comprehensive 4-CD account of his complete sacred and secular oeuvre, including many premiere recordings, is a revelation, both sacred and secular works receiving very fine performances indeed on convincing blends of voices and instruments. It is perhaps easier to identify a specific individual style once a body of work has been confidently ascribed to one composer, but it is hard to see why it wasn’t clear all along that this was the work of a single distinctive and highly talented musical mind. There is also satisfaction for us nowadays in the discovery that a man coping with considerable physical challenges could be so successful in his chosen career and lead such a long and fruitful life in the 14th and 15th centuries. The sacred music (recorded on the first two CDs) in particular is among the finest I know from the period, and these superb idiomatic accounts by La Fonte Musica go a long way to re-establishing Zacara’s seminal role in the development of sacred Italian music. This is not to diminish the attractiveness of the two CDs of Zacara’s secular music, which open with his splendid Cacciando per gustar with its vivid evocation of a busy marketplace.

D. James Ross