Teatro Spirituale (Rome, c. 1610)

Alice Fouccroulle, Reinoud Van Mechelen, Inalto, Lambert Colson
Ricercar RIC399
Music by Anerio, Cavalieri, Cifra, Frescobaldi, de Macque, Marenzio, Quagliati & anon

This charming selection of spiritual songs from early 17th-century Rome is proposed by the performers as the sort of repertoire which would have graced the Oratory of St Philip Neri, founded in Rome in 1575, and which offered a daily diet of prayer, sermons and sacred music. The singing, particularly of Alice Foccroulle and Reinoud van Mechelen, in these performances is very fine indeed and very persuasive. Director Lambert Colson makes a good case for the variation in scoring for each stanza of the songs presented, which provides for a constantly varying kaleidoscope of textures. The five vocalists and four sackbut players, with Colson playing cornett and mute cornett, are augmented by the sounds of two lirones, theorbos and archlutes, harpsichord and the splendid 1509 Montefalco organ in San Francesco in Trevi. Unfortunately a printing error in my programme notes means that two whole pages are missing, driving a bit of a coach and horses through Colson’s interesting and informative notes. The Neri Oratory’s enormous popularity meant that the size of its ‘congregation’, the quality of the performers keen to play and sing there and the scope of the compositions were all on the increase in the early 17th century, and this is reflected in the opulence of the present recording. And notwithstanding the penitential tone of much of the music, it also captures the positive and optimistic atmosphere known to prevail at these gatherings. This is an involving and intriguing exploration of mainly unfamiliar repertoire, in many cases by unfamiliar composers, and underlines the wealth of repertoire associated with the Eternal City at this time.

D. James Ross

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