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GRAMOPHONE (01/2017)
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Reviewer: Christopher Nickol

Admirers of European keyboard music of the 16th century will welcome this recording of Cavazzoni’s complete organ works. The programme is a mixture of sacred pieces, based on plainchant melodies, and secular works which are mostly short ricercars. All these compositions may remind organists of the music of Tallis – a contemporary of Cavazzoni – and there are clear similarities between the two composers. The keyboard-writing is starting to progress from a purely vocal style towards more idiomatic figuration with florid decorative passages and rapid fingerwork. One can sense a clear lineage between Cavazzoni and Tallis and the next generation of composers, such as Byrd, Gibbons, Frescobaldi and Sweelinck.

Ivana Valotti’s fine performances are characterised by lively articulation and extremely flexible tempos. She makes full use of the colourful and beautiful 12-stop 1565 Antegnati organ. Although freedom of tempo may be historically appropriate (and was advocated by Frescobaldi), some listeners may find Valotti’s flexibility a little wearisome. Her phrasing is also rather crisp and clipped, giving the impression of breathless excitement. This would all work well on a harpsichord in a drier acoustic, but on an organ in a larger space steadier tempos and a calmer approach would be more satisfying.

The CDs are enhanced by the contribution of Gianluca Ferrarini, who sings the Gregorian melodies most expressively during the three Mass settings plus other pieces based on individual hymns. Aside from a few obvious edits, the recording is very good, and Valotti’s detailed and informative booklet-notes add to the enjoyment.

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