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GRAMOPHONE (09/2015)
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Pan Classics

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Reviewer: David Vickers


This anthology constructs a narrative through Italian music ranging across more than a century, from about 1580 to 1700, and most of the pieces are transcriptions taken from short sacred polyphony originally written for voices. There are not many composers who securely fit the billing as ‘Early Baroque’, and the majority are renowned late Renaissance (Palestrina, Cipriano de Rore, Marenzio, Vecchi and both Gabrielis), but the early-18th-century stile antico is represented by a Roman six-part sinfonia by Francesco Magini (dated 1710) and the four-part motet Stella ista sicut flamina by Giacomo Antonio Perti (1661-1756).


A revolving team of three cornettists (all of whom switch between different instruments, including the smaller and higher-pitched cornettini), four trombonists and continuo organist give priority to contrapuntal shading, but without loss of naturally accumulating grandeur in Marenzio’s sixpart madrigal Chi dal Delfino (one of several pieces here taken from the intermedio La Pellegrina, for the wedding of Ferdinando de’ Medici and Christine of Lorraine in 1589). The distinct texture of four trombones produces a darker-hued solemnity in Cipriano de Rore’s secular motet Calami sonum ferentes and one of Palestrina’s umpteen settings of Ave Maria (performed in a version from a 1591 treatise by Giovanni Bassano that features solo diminutions for one of the trombones). Cornettist William Dongois plays diminutions with florid virtuosity and fantasy in Giovanni Gabreli’s six-part Domine exaudi (from the posthumous 1615 collection Symphoniae sacrae); his soloing accompanied only by organ will startle those familiar with the original sixvoice version of Andrea Gabrieli’s motet Maria stabat ad monumentum (which commenced the Gabreli Consort’s iconic liturgical reconstruction of a Venetian Easter Mass – Archiv, 7/97). Ensemble Ventosum’s polyphonic conversance ensures that powerful textures and grandeur are insinuated without needing to blaringly force the issue, and these expertly played interpretations are manna from heaven for those who adore Renaissance brass consorts.



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