“1615, Gabrieli in Venice” – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/ His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts/ Stephen Cleobury – King’s College SACD + Blu-ray

A good place to start if you are an audiophile and don’t know this composer. Are there any out there?

“1615, Gabrieli in Venice” – Choir of King’s College, Cambridge/ His Majesty’s Sagbutts & Cornetts/ Stephen Cleobury – King’s College multichannel SACD + audio-only Blu-ray KGS0012 (2 discs), 73:10 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

The only thing I wish is that these albums about Gabrieli in Venice were actually recorded there! Just like E. Power Biggs used to do in his Columbia series. But King’s College, though far from the acoustics of St. Marks in Venice, is no slouch, and so this new SACD + Blu-ray disc proves a sonic spectacular indeed. In fact the choir was arranged to give the maximum impression of how this music might have sounded in the revered church itself, and the surround effects—with in Blu-ray or SACD—are extremely effective. [Remember St. Mark’s is all mosaics inside and perhaps not the best acoustic environment…Ed]

Of course the music here is taken from the 1615 collection Symphoniæ sacræ, that seminal publication that looks backward to the brilliant polychoral style as well to the more mature motets. And the good news is that most of this music, for Gabrieli fans (and is there anyone who is not?) almost all of this is recognizable, if not a “greatest hits” then surely the next best thing in sound to die for. The performances are riveting as well, though I must confess that I am not convinced the English boy choir tradition is as robust as what is found in the Italian school, the large acoustic needing a rougher, more assertive style than what we get here. This is of course a nit—this choir in particular sets all sorts of standards worldwide, but if we are talking Gabrieli in Venice then it is certainly a valid point to be argued over coffee in the Piazzetta di San Marco.

As is I am willing to settle for the Cambridge folks giving us this well-prepared and thoroughly well-executed faux-version of You are there, completely up to the standards of just about every other disc they have recorded. Thrilling stuff all around, and let’s hope for more!

Tracklist:

In ecclesiis a 14

Canzon Seconda a 6

Suscipe, clementissime Deus à 12

Hodie completi sunt dies pentecostes

Jubilate Deo 10vv

Canzon Terza a 6

Quem vidistis pastores a 14

Sonata XXI con tre violini

Exsutavit cor meum in Domino a 6

Surrexit Christus a 11

Canzone prima a 5

Litaniae Beatissimae Mariae Virginis

Magnificat a14

—Steven Ritter

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