1612 Italian Vespers: Second Vespers of the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (with music of VIADANA, GABRIELI, BARBARINO, A. GABRIELI, PALESTRINA, MONTEVERDI, and SORIANO) – I Fagiolini/ Robert Hollingworth – Decca B0016794, 78:40 ****:
Copious and scholarly notes mark the boundaries of this highly intelligent and wonderfully produced reconstruction of a 1612 Rosary Vespers celebrated as part of the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, an historical event that has deep roots in the mindset of Venetians for many years, serving as what many considered a model at inhibiting the influence and growth of the Turks at that time. 1612 also marks the years of the death of Giovanni Gabriel, whose two seven-choir (28 part) settings of the Magnificat are one of the highlights of his compositional career (only one is given here, but it is the backbone of this recording). The key of course is “attributed” because we are not positively assured that this flowed directly from Gabrieli’s hand, and even here the composition is not complete. Musicologist Hugh Keyte reconstructed it. There are truly grand passages that use church bells and cannon fire (appropriate because of the battle theme), and some beautiful and subtle moments of transparency and clarity.
But the music of Gabrieli, whether father or son, is not all that is on this disc, and it must be said that despite the excellence of the program and the evident love that went into each moment, the music of his confreres is not as memorable. This only subtracts from the overall probity and pleasure of the program slightly—overall it does a good job of placing us in this admittedly historical reconstructive moment. I do wish surround sound had been employed—it makes no sense to me why music of this type, which uses polychoral techniques designed precisely to enhance the aural sensation of space, doesn’t go the whole nine yards in attempting to really place us in the midst of that experience.
Otherwise, for what we have, this is a fine recording, and the Decca two-channel sound is clear, resonant, and given in great detail.
An excellent DG debut!