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GRAMOPHONE (09/2015)
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Reviewer: David Vickers


In 1616 the 14-yearold Cavalli joined Monteverdi’s choir at St Mark’s in Venice, and eventually in 1668 he became its maestro di cappella. Just a year before his death, he published a collection containing three sets of Vespers psalms and canticles. One of these is entitled Vespero delle Domeniche and is a repertory of music suitable for a relatively ordinary Sunday afternoon Vespers service (rather than a special feast day). The 13 psalms and Magnificat are set for eight voices, organised in two antiphonal choirs and doubled by instruments. The Claudio Monteverdi Choir of Crema use two single-voice ‘favorito’ choirs and two much larger ‘ripieno’ choirs – a total of 37 singers, far outnumbering La Pifarescha’s eight cornetts and sackbuts and a single organist; observers interested in historical performance practice might justifiably quibble about whether cornetts might be anachronistic in music dating from this late in the 17th century.


Lean ‘favorito’ passages and ‘ripieno’ choral reinforcements tend to place beauty and sincerity above the pursuit of rhetorical drama, although I would have liked to hear a bit more commanding authority with the text ‘In exitu Israel de Aegypto’. You can barely hear a consonant during ‘In convertendo Dominus’, so instead soft sonorities of Italianate vowels wash over the listener. Likewise, rhythmical vigour is not necessarily a priority, and instead Gini prefers a lilting easiness (eg the Doxology concluding ‘Beatus vir’). Cavalli’s occasionally audacious harmonic progressions are brought to the fore by the textural richness of La Pifarescha’s sackbuts (such as the striking opening phrases of ‘Dixit Dominus’), and there is some exquisite contrapuntal word-painting in the solemn ‘De profundis clamavi’ (albeit undermined by some imperfect choral tuning). Perhaps one can imagine punchier and more thrilling accounts than these relaxed performances, but the splendid finale to the Magnificat is alone worth the price of admission.



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