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"Divi Augustini Musici - Music by the Augustinian monks between the late Renaissance and the splendors of the Baroque"

Cappella Musicale di San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna; Schola gregoriana-polifonica San Pietroa
Dir: Roberto Cascio

rec: Feb 29 - March 1, 2020, Bologna, Convento San Giacomo Maggiore
NovAntiqua - NA52 (68'34")
Liner-notes: E; no lyrics
Cover & track-list

Matteo ASOLA (1524-1609): Missa defunctorum tribus vocibusabcdk; Giovanni Battista DEGLI ANTONII (1636-after 1698): Versetti del 6° tuono I-VIo; Versetti del tuono naturale I-IIIo; Agostino DIRUTA (?-after 1656): Buon Giesù, Gesù Christo con la Croce verso il Calvariobk; Con le pungenti spine, alla corona di spine sopra il Capo di Giesù Christobk; Non è già tuo, sopra la morte di Giesù Christobk; Guglielmo LIPPARINI (after 1570-after 1637): Sonata La Bentivoglia a 2hjlo; Sonata La Bologneta a 3hijlo; Sonata La Bovia a 3egl; Sonata La Campeggia 2ijlo; Sonata La Guidota a 2hjko; Sonata La Malvezza a 3efjkn; Sonata La Paleota a 2fjk; Sonata La Pepoli a 2jkmn

Sources: Guglielmo Lipparini, Sacri Concerti a una due tre a quattro voci ..., op. 13, 1635; Agostino Diruta, Poese heroiche morali e sacre poste in musica a una, due, tre, quattro, e cinque voci, op. 20, 1646; Giovanni Battista degli Antonii, Versetti per tutti il tuoni tanto naturali, come trasportati per l'organo, op. 2, 1687

Marcella Ventura, altob; Lars Hvass Pujol, tenorc; Sandro Pucci, bassd; Daniela Salvatoree, Antonio Lorenzonif, Camilla Marabinig, recorder; Christophe Mouraulth, Mojca Jermani, violin; Anna Giuseppina Mosconi, bass violinj; Roberto Cascio, lutek, chitarronel; Fabio Mori, archlutem; Monica Paolini, guitarn; Istvan Batori, organo

For a long time convents have not only been spiritual centres, but also centres of science and art. A considerable number of composers were monks and produced music that was to be used in their own convents. However, when such music was published, it could also be performed elsewhere. Moreover, music life in convents was not confined to the liturgy. Para-liturgical and instrumental music was also performed, and in some convents even secular music was part of the entertainment of the inhabitants. The disc under review focuses on music by monks who were living in convents which belonged to the Augustinian order.

The composers whose music is performed here are mostly unknown quantities. The best-known of them is Giovanni Battista degli Antoni (or Antonii), who lived and worked in Bologna all his life. He has made a name for himself because of his contributions to the early repertoire for the cello. His Ricercate op. 1 are part of the standard repertoire. However, he was first and foremost an organist. He published two collections of Versetti; such pieces were intended for liturgical use, and especially the alternatim practice.

The name of Diruta is also quite well known, but then with the Christian name of Girolamo. He was an organist and theorist, and his book Il Transilvano (published in two parts in Venice in 1593 and 1609) is not only an important treatise, but also includes a number of keyboard works. Agostino was Girolamo's nephew (according to New Grove; Roberto Cascio, in his liner-notes, calls him Girolamo's brother) and his pupil. He very likely was from Venice, where he worked as organist at S Stefano. On the title-page of a collection of music printed in 1630, he called himself organist and choirmaster at S Agostino in Rome; he held this post until his death. His oeuvre comprises sixteen collections of sacred music, printed between 1617 in Venice and 1647 in Rome. The penultimate collection includes pieces of sacred and moral nature; it seems likely that the latter category consists of pieces on texts in the vernacular. The three items performed here are examples; they are about the Passion of Christ and are written in the monodic style and scored for a solo voice and basso continuo. This allows for a more personal and emotional approach to the suffering of Jesus than his liturgical music which was mostly written for an ensemble of voices.

With the Missa defunctorum by Matteo Asola we are in a different world. He was from Verona and in 1546 he entered the congregation of secular canons of S Giorgio in Alga. He may have been a student of Vincenzo Ruffo. He later worked in Verona, Treviso and Vicenza. During the last decades of his life he was in Venice, where in 1588 he was appointed one of four chaplains at S Severo, a church under the jurisdiction of the monks of S Lorenzo. His Requiem Mass is unusually scored for three voices a cappella: alto, tenor and bass. It is a work which follows the alternatim practice. In this recording the voices are supported by the lute. Cascio argues that this was common practice in the 16th century. It is not known when this work was written; Cascio assumes it dates from the last decades of the 16th century. It is written in the stile antico which was still dominant at the time. The scoring for three voices is a relic of a much earlier time and was very common in the 15th century. At the time this mass was probably written, four voices were the standard.

The last composer in the programme brings us back to more modern times. The sonatas by Guglielmo Lipparini are from a collection of sacred concertos which was published in 1635. The fact that they are included in such a collection suggest that they were intended for liturgical use. The playing of instrumental sonatas in the liturgy was very common at the time. In Vespers, for instance, every Psalm and the Magnificat were embraced by an antiphon. The repetition of such an antiphon could be replaced by a sacred concerto or a sonata. Like Degli Antoni, Lipparini was from Bologna and became an Augustinian monk at S Giacomo Maggiore. Between 1609 and 1633 he was the director of music at Como Cathedral. These sonatas are specimens of the stylus phantasticus that emerged in Italy around 1600. They comprise several sections that are not formally separated. Roberto Cascio mentions that they are scored for violin, violone and basso continuo. However, three are performed on recorders, and in one sonata the lute takes the upper part. This choice is not discussed in the liner-notes. The titles of the sonatas refer to noble Bolognese families.

This disc includes repertoire of very different kinds. Apart from the fact that the composers were connected to the Augustinian order, they have little in common. However, as most composers are hardly known and the pieces included here are probably recorded for the first time, its importance can hardly be overrated. That makes it all the more disappointing that the performances of the vocal pieces have some considerable shortcomings. Marcella Ventura certainly has what it takes to bring Diruta's arias to life, but his vibrato is regrettable. He also sings the upper part in Asola's Requiem, but is often hardly audible. In the opening section it is the tenor who dominates, whereas in the ensuing Kyrie, the bass overshadows his colleagues. The balance in this work is mostly unsatisfying. The voices don't blend that well. Moreover, the tempi are often rather slow. In the 'Dies irae', the plainchant sections are even extremely slow. The instrumental items are the best part of this disc.

On balance, it is the music which makes this disc recommendable to those who are particularly interested in this period in music history.

Johan van Veen (© 2022)

Relevant links:

Cappella Musicale di San Giacomo Maggiore, Bologna

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