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Giovanni GABRIELI (c1554/57 - 1612): "Sacrae Symphoniae"

Gesualdo Consort Amsterdama; Oltremontanob
Dir: Wim Becu

rec: Dec 14 - 17, 2012, Cologne, Trinitatiskirche
Accent - ACC 24282 ( 2013) (61'32")
Liner-notes: E/D/F; lyrics - translations: D
Cover & track-list

Beata es virgo Maria a 6 (C 8)a [1]; Cantate Domino a 6 (C 6)a [1]; Canzon 1. toni a 8 (C 170)b [1]; Canzon 12. toni a 10 (C 178)b [1]; Canzon in echo 12. toni a 10 (C 180)b [1]; Canzon VIII a 8 (C 202)b [3]; Canzon IX fa, sol, la, re a 8 (C 190)b [2]; Deus qui beatum Marcum a 10 (C 36)ab [1]; Exaudi Deus a 7 (C 12)ab [1]; Hic est filius Dei a 18 (C 132)ab; Maria virgo a 10 (C 35)ab [1]; Miserere mei Deus a 6 (C 9)a [1]; Sancta et immaculata virginitas a 8 (C 25)ab [1]; Sancta Maria succurre miseris a 7 (C 13)ab [1]; Sonata pian e forte a 8 (C 175)b [1]; Surrexit Christus a 11 (C 66)ab [4]

Sources: [1] Giovanni Gabrieli, Sacrae Symphoniae, 1597; [2] div, Canzoni per sonare con ogni sorte di stromenti ... da diversi eccellentissimi musici, 1608; Giovanni Gabrieli, [3] Canzoni et sonate, 1615; [4] Symphoniae sacrae ... liber secundus, 1615

[GCA] Nele Gram, Ulrike Hofbauer, soprano; Marnix De Cat, alto; Volker Arndt, Harry van Berne, Julian Podger, tenor; Harry van der Kamp, bass
[Oltr] Swantje Hoffmann, An Van Laethem, violin, viola; Doron David Sherwin, Adrien Mabire, Anna Schall, cornett; Wim Becu, Adam Bregman, Guy Hanssen, Fabien Moulaert, Harry Ries, Robert Schlegl, Bart Vroomen, Adam Woolf, sackbut; Kris Verhelst, Ben Van Nespen, organ

The name of Giovanni Gabrieli is inextricably bound up with Venice. However, for some time he stayed at the court of Albrecht V in Munich where Orlandus Lassus was Kapellmeister. The latter had a large ensemble of voices and instruments at his disposal, and the splendour of performances at the Munich court must have made a strong impression on Gabrieli. He returned to Venice probably before 1580 and in 1585 he succeeded Claudio Merulo as organist of San Marco. In the same year he was elected as organist of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, one of the many confraternities which existed across Italy. During their gatherings sacred music was performed, and it is documented that a number of compositions by Gabrieli were written for such performances.

Gabrieli can be considered as one of the last representatives of the prima prattica which was dominated by polyphony. However, his oeuvre also includes elements which point to the future. His latest vocal works show the influences of the emerging concertante style. His instrumental works are especially notable, for various reasons. Firstly they are idiomatically different from the vocal works. This was quite unusual at the time as music specifically written for an instrumental ensemble was very rare. Ensembles mostly played vocal music. Secondly, in several of his canzonas and the Sonata pian e forte Gabrieli explicitly indicates the instrumentation. Thirdly, in the latter work he included instructions in regard to dynamics, as the title suggests.

The name of Gabrieli is also bound up with the practice of cori spezzati, the juxtaposition of two or more choirs. This was by no means an exclusive Venetian practice, but it was more pronounced here than elsewhere. The music had to reflect the pride, wealth and splendour of the city, and the possibilities in San Marco were such that there were hardly any limitations for composers in regard to scoring. The cathedral had an independent instrumental ensemble with its own director. However, it would be wrong to assume that all the music in San Marco was performed with a mixture of voices and instruments. The latter were required on 'special occasions' such as the main feasts of the ecclesiastical year and events of a political nature. It seems that the most common practice was performances with voices only, if so desired accompanied by organ(s). This is exposed here in that various motets are performed a capella. The programme also includes two pieces whose number of parts suggest that they are scored for cori spezzati: Sancta et immaculate verginitatis is for eight and Surrexit Christus for 11 voices, but in both cases the vocal and instrumental forces are not split up.

The line-up of the ensemble is rather small: all the pieces are performed with one voice per part; in some one or several voices are supported by an instrument. It is impossible to say exactly how many singers and instrumentalists were involved in performances in San Marco or in gatherings of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. It is reasonable to assume that during 'special occasions' the number if performers was larger than in this recording. The virtue of the line-up here is the clarity of the texture and the audibility of the text. The latter is also the result of the way the music is sung and played. Because of the vibrato-less style of singing the voices blend perfectly with each other and with the instruments. The singers and players follow exactly the rhythm of the text. These performances are much more declamatory than the rather linear style in many other recordings, for instance the one by Ex Cathedra. Maria virgo is a particularly good example. Also impressive is the vocal style of playing of Oltremontano; listen to the Canzon in echo duodecimi toni. Considering that the voice and vocal music were still very much the foundation of all music this is fully justified.

This disc was recorded in 2012, when Gabrieli's death in 1612 was commemorated. Several other recordings of this kind were released, but this is definitely the most interesting and musically most satisfying. The performances are splendid, and the programme delivers a differentiated picture of Gabrieli's oeuvre.

This production has two shortcomings. Firstly, it is odd that the booklet omits English translations of the lyrics. Secondly, the track-list gives the wrong titles to tracks 6 to 8. This is the correct order: track 6 is Canzon VIII 9, track 7 Sancta Maria succurre miseris 7, track 8 Exaudi Deus 7.

Johan van Veen ( 2014)

Relevant links:

Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam

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