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Marc'Antonio INGEGNERI (c1535/36 - 1592): Missa Laudate pueri Dominum

Choir of Girton College, Cambridgea; Historic Brass of the Guildhall School and Welsh College of Music and Dramab; James Mitchellc, Wayne Weaverd, organ
Dir: Gareth Wilson

rec: July 11 - 13, 2019, Cambridge, St George's, Chesterton
Toccata Classics - TOCC 0556 (© 2020) (70'03")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Giovanni CROCE (c1557-1609): In spiritu humilitatis a 8ab; Marc'Antonio INGEGNERI: Adoramus te Christe a 8b [3]; Cantate et psallite a 12ab [3]; Ecce venit desideratus a 12a [3]; Emendemus in melius a 12ab [3]; Lydia miri Narcisoc; Missa Laudate pueri Dominum a 8ab [1]; O sacrum convivium a 8b [3]; Quae est ista a 5a [2]; Spess' in parted; Surge propera a 5a [2]; Vidi speciosam a 16ab [3]

Sources: [1] Liber Primus Missarum cum quinque et octo vocibus, 1573; [2] Sacrarum cantionum cum quinque vocibus, 1576; [3] Liber Sacrarum Cantionum, 1589

[HBGS] Emily Ashby, Jeremy West, cornett; Alec Coles-Aldridge, Adam Crighton, Emily Saville, Malachi Taylor, Peter Thornton, sackbut

The disc under review here has several interesting features. First, it is devoted to a composer whose music very seldom appears on disc. It is telling that all the pieces included in the programme, have been recorded for the first time. Second, the music performed here sheds light on the development of liturgical music in the wake of the Council of Trent and its decisions with regard to sacred music. Third, we learn here something about musical life in a city which does not take a prominent place in music history.

To start with the latter aspect: Cremona did not have an aristocratic court, and as a result, there was no major patron of the arts. Therefore, it can hardly surprise that in the second half of the 16th century, Marc'Antonio Ingegneri was the only composer of any stature, and that his main supporter was the bishop of Cremona, Nicoḷ Sfondrato. He was very fond of music, and favoured Ingegneri's activities in this field. The composer dedicated no fewer than four books of sacred music to the bishop, whose episcopate was of unusual length: from 1560 to 1590. In the latter year he was elected Pope, taking the name of Gregory XIV. (His papacy lasted less than a year: he was elected 5 December 1590 and died 16 October 1591.)

The Council of Trent saw it as its main task to meet the challenge of the Reformation. Apart from confirming the doctrines of the Church of Rome, which were the subject of severe criticism by the Reformers, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, it also dealt with the criticism of sacred music, which was not confined to the Reformers and their supporters. Among the issues were the lack of intelligibility of the text and the use of often dubious secular music as the basis for liturgical music, in particular masses (referring to the practice of writing so-called parody masses). Composers reacted differently, and Ingegneri is a good example. On the one hand, he treated polyphony as the foundation of liturgical music. "Ingegneri's music reveals that he was a highly competent polyphonist; his contemporary, Pietro Cerone, hailed him as a master of counterpoint, and attributed to him the invention of a number of devices including 'double and inverted counterpoint at the 10th and 12th'." (New Grove) The Missa Laudate pueri Dominum is a good example of a work dominated by counterpoint. The intelligibility of the text seems not to have been Ingegneri's main concern. However, as Giampiero Innocente points out in the liner-notes, that was not very important in this case, as the text of the mass was generally known. In the motets we find more passages of homophony, which makes the text more clearly intelligible. Moreover, in some of the pieces recorded here, it is notable that Ingegneri looked for a closer connection between text and music. This is undoubtedly also the effect of his education, as is his preference for polychorality.

And that brings us to the third reason why this disc is interesting. Ingegneri is a relatively little-known master of the late renaissance. He was born in Verona and entered the choir of Verona Cathedral as a choirboy. One of his first teachers may have been Jacquet de Berchem, and later he was probably a pupil of Vincenzo Ruffo. Around 1557 he moved to Venice, and there can be little doubt that there he became acquainted with the practice of cori spezzati. Nothing is known about his activities in the early 1560s, but there is reason to believe that he went to Parma to study with Cipriano de Rore, as in one of his madrigal books he mentions that he "personally received his tuition". This had a marked influence on his development as a composer, both in his madrigals and in his sacred music. He published eight books of madrigals; a ninth was printed posthumously, and some madrigals were included in anthologies. On the present disc two of his madrigals are performed on the organ.

Most of the sacred works included here are written in the Venetian polychoral style. That goes for the Missa Laudate pueri Dominum, which is based on a motet by Palestrina, as well as most of the motets. Five pieces are taken from a collection of motets for two or three choirs; the two double-choir motets are performed here instrumentally. The frequent use of instruments in these performances has a firm historical foundation. Not only bears it witness to the Venetian influence in Ingegneri's oeuvre, it is also documented that by the 1580s he had organized a mixed instrumental ensemble of strings and wind at the cathedral. And in the book of polychoral motets of 1589, which was dedicated to Nicoḷ Sfondrato at the occasion of his elevation to cardinal, it was mentioned that the motets were "together and separately adaptable for various concerted musical instruments".

It is impossible to say with how large forces this repertoire should be performed. We mostly don't know how many singers and instrumentalists a maestro di cappella had at his disposal. And even if we knew, there is no reason to assume that all of them participated in every single work. The Choir of Girton College Cambridge comprises 29 voices (9/7/6/7). I probably would have preferred a slightly smaller ensemble, especially considering the participation of wind in almost all the pieces. The two motets on texts from the Song of Solomon are more modest in scoring: for just five voices. Here the wind does not participate, and that seems right. It lends these pieces an amount of intimacy, which fits their content. I think that here a performance with one voice per part would have been most appropriate. The inclusion of two madrigals is a bit odd in a programme of sacred music, and a performance at the organ seems not the most plausible. Considering that the instrumental ensemble Ingegneri founded, included strings, it would have been nice to perform them with an instrumental ensemble of this kind. But it would be even better when madrigal ensembles would turn to Ingegneri's oeuvre in that department, as to date they seem to have overlooked them. The disc ends with a piece by Croce; I have not been able to figure out, why. The liner-notes don't explain it.

I have little but praise for these performances. Choir and instruments deliver very good performances, and turn out to be excelllent advocates of Ingegneri's music. Its qualities come out quite convincingly. There is no reason to ignore his sacred music, and I am curious about other parts of his oeuvre, including the madrigals. Gareth Wilson deserves our appreciation for his research into Ingegneri's oeuvre and his preparation of the scores. He and his musicians have put someone on the map, who so far was best known for being the first teacher of Monteverdi. That is not a small merit, but he deserves to be taken seriously as a composer in his own right. This disc is a perfect start.

Johan van Veen (© 2020)

Relevant links:

Choir of Girton College, Cambridge

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