Italian Roots of the Baroque, vocal edition

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Program: #18-35   Air Date: Aug 16, 2018

A Sacred oratorio by Luigi Rossi, a world premiere of a Plague Mass by Orazio Benevoli, and the earliest use of the violin (with voice!).

I. Orazio Benevoli: Missa “In angustia pestilentiae”, 1656. (Capella Musicale di Santa Maria in Campitelli/Vincenzo Di Betta). Tactus CD TC 600210.

Orazio Benevoli: Missa 'In angustia pestilentiae', 1656 Product Image
Orazio Benevoli was one of the most important Roman Baroque composers. Born in Rome in 1605, as a twelve-year-old he joined the pueri cantores (choirboys) of the Church of San Luigi dei Francesi, where he remained until 1623. The following year he assumed the post of maestro di cappella at Santa Maria in Trastevere; then at Santo Spirito in Saxia and later on at San Luigi dei Francesi. In 1644 he moved to Vienna to serve at the court of Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Hapsburg. Upon his return to Rome he briefly served as maestro di cappella at Santa Maria Maggiore before becoming the choirmaster of the Cappella Giulia at the Vatican on November 7, 1646, where he remained for over 25 years until his death on June 17, 1672. Vincenzo di Betta leads the Cappella Musicale di Santa Maria in Campitelli to the rediscovery of his 'Missa In angustia Pestilentiæ' (in the distress of the plague), composed and performed in 1656 in the Basilica of San Pietro behind closed doors, given the severity of the contagion of the plague spread in Rome in the same year, which induced Pope Alessandro VII to issue provisions that would minimize the moments of aggregation in the city, such as solemn celebrations. The work was probably commissioned by the Capitolo of the Basilica for an important occasion, which invoked the divine mercy so that the contagion would cease.
From Fr. Jerome Weber, Fanfare: Orazio Benevoli’s name entered the record catalogs in the mono era, when Philips recorded the Missa Salzburgensis in 53 parts live in the Salzburg cathedral in 1952 (issued here on Epic and MHS). The composer and work were dated to the consecration of the cathedral in 1628. In 1974 Ireneu Segarra and his choir of Montserrat recorded it in the collegiate church (CD in Fanfare 14:6) as an anonymous work, attributed to Benevoli, but possibly composed by Andreas Hofer or Heinrich Biber for the anniversary celebration of 1682. Then Paul McCreesh recorded it in 1997 (23:4) with Biber cited as composer for the same occasion, though not without doubt. Then Ton Koopman recorded it in the following year (23:5), again at the Salzburg cathedral, this time firmly attributed to Biber. More recently, in two recordings not submitted for review, Sergio Balestracci and Jordi Savall recorded the Mass as Biber’s, and Václav Luks’s performance in the Salzburg cathedral in 2016 has just been issued on DVD (41:5). 
None of this has anything to do with the present work, which finally brings me a chance to review a genuine Mass by Benevoli. Born in Rome of French parents with the surname Venouot, he became a choirboy at San Luigi dei Francesi. Soon after leaving that choir, he became maestro in a series of important churches: Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santo Spirito in Sassia, then back to San Luigi dei Francesi. After serving briefly at the Hapsburg court in Vienna, he returned to Rome, was briefly at Santa Maria Maggiore, and then from 1646 directed the Cappella Giulia at the Vatican basilica until his death. His polychoral Masses involved as many as 16 parts. Of the 16 surviving Masses, only Missa Azzolina, directed by Hervé Niquet (20:3); Missa Tira corda, directed by Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden; and the Missa Si Deus pro nobis, again directed by Niquet, have been recorded. Missa Azzolina is set for two five-voice choirs, while the other three recorded Masses are all for 16 voices. 
The program is an elaborate reconstruction of a Mass in 17th-century Rome. Along with the Ordinary by Benevoli and three chant Propers for the Dedication of a Church, as well as chants for the celebrant’s collect, epistle, gospel, preface, Pater noster, and dismissal, there are brief organ pieces after the epistle, the offertory, the elevation, and the communion, furnished by the three added composers. This is as complete as a liturgical reconstruction gets, and it commemorates the invocation of divine intervention in the plague of 1656, as indicated by the name given to the work. It is suggested here that the Mass was celebrated without a congregation, public gatherings being severely restricted for fear of spreading disease, as clear a proof as any that music was composed for the glory of God, not the entertainment of the audience. It is further suggested that it was celebrated on November 18 of that year, the anniversary of the dedication of the Vatican basilica, hence the choice of chants, which are sung from the Medicean Edition of 1615, one that is not often used in recorded Masses. 
The ensemble La Cantoria, consisting of theorbo, trombones, and organ, blends well with the mixed voices singing one to a part. The recording was made in a Roman church near the Forum, Santa Maria in Campitelli, directly related to the events of 1656. The 11th-century icon of the Blessed Virgin, the principal treasure of the church, was carried in procession through the streets to save the city from the plague at the time. I find no mention of this connection in the notes. This is a splendid way to present the first recording of this Mass; highly recommended. J. F. Weber 
Missa "In angustia pestilentiae", pour 16 voix et orgue

Introito "Terribilis est locus iste"
Colletta "Deus qui nobis"
Epistola, Apocalisse, 21:2-5
"Canzon dopo la pistola" de G. Frescobaldi
Vangelo Luc, 19:1-10
Orazio Benevoli "Credo"
Offertoire "Domine Deus in simplicitate"
Caprice sur "La Girolmeta" de G. Frescobaldi
Prefazio festivo
Orazio Benevoli "Sanctus"
"Intonazione cromatica del IV tono" de T. Merula
"Pater noster"
"Pax Domini"
Orazio Benevoli "Agnus Dei"
Communio "Domus mea"
Ricercare XIV de J.J. Froberger
"Ite missa est


II. Andrea Amati—Carlo IX (c. 1570)—Le Origini del Violino   MV Cremona CD MCV 018-45.

Andrea Amati Carlo IX, Le Origini del Violino
Federico Gugliemo violino Andrea Amati Carlo IX, 1570 circa

Cristina Fanelli soprano

Davide Pozzi organo positivo da modello anonimo italiano del XVII sec., Walter Chinaglia, 2005

Diego Cantalupi chitarrone copia di Matteo Sellas, collezione privata, Filippo Lesca, 2010

From Dating from circa 1570, the violin used in this recording is the Andrea Amati Carlo IX, so named after its maker, Cremonese luthier Andrea Amati, and Charles IX, the king of France at the time and the likely dedicatee (based on its filigreed arms and motto, Pietate et Justitia). Violinist and Baroque authority Federico Guglielmo plays this important historical instrument, and he is joined by soprano Cristina Fanelli, organist Davide Pozzi, and theorbist Diego Cantalupi in a program of chamber and vocal music from the late 16th and early 17th centuries. It was in this transitional period between the Renaissance and the Baroque eras that the violin rose to prominence from the ranks of string consorts and processional bands to become the dominant solo instrument in Western music for more than four centuries. Of the composers included, Claudio Monteverdi surely ranks at the top of the group, while the names of Tarquinio MerulaGiovanni Amigone MantovanoGiulio Belli, Francesco Carubelli, Nicolò CorradinoBiagio MariniGiovanni Battista Riccio, and Innocentio Vivarino may be familiar only to specialists. Yet the obscurity of the pieces won't be a stumbling block for fans of early music because the music is consistently expressive and virtuosic, and Guglielmo's playing is wonderful for its penetrating tone and brilliant ornamentation. The reproduction is crystal clear and close-up, so the details of Guglielmo's bowing and articulation are fully audible.


BIAGIO MARINI Sonata III, Variata per il violino

Sonate op. VIII, Venezia 1629        

BIAGIO MARINI Il Monteverde, Balletto Alemanno a violino e basso
Affetti Musicali op. I, Venezia 1617       

CLAUDIO MONTEVERDI Et è pur dunque vero, con sinfonie
Scherzi musicali, Venezia 1632

FRANCESCO CARUBELLI Brando, Spagnoletta, Corrente & Gagliarda
Terpsichore Musarum, Wolfenbüttel 1612

BIAGIO MARINI Capriccio per sonar tre parti con il violino solo a modo di lira
Sonate op. VIII, Venezia 1629

INNOCENTIO VIVARINO Sonata per il violino
Il primo libro de motetti, Venezia 1620

NICOLÒ CORRADINO Sonata a due, La Sfondrata
Primo Libro de’ Canzoni francesi, Venezia 1624

 TARQUINIO MERULA Canzon XVII, La Monteverde
Canzoni da suonare op. XVII, Venezia 1651

TARQUINIO MERULA Nigra sum, sed formosa
Motetti e sonate concertati op. VI, Venezia 1651

GIOVANNI BATTISTA RICCIO Canzon a basso e soprano
Il secondo libro delle Divine Lodi, Venezia 1614

BIAGIO MARINI Romanesca per violino solo, e basso se piace
Arie madrigali et correnti op. III, Venezia 1620

GIOVANNI AMIGONE MANTOVANO Sinfonia prima per violino solo
Ms Q. 34, 1613, Museo della Musica di Bologna

GIOVANNI AMIGONE MANTOVANO Sinfonia terza per violino solo
Ms Q. 34, 1613, Museo della Musica di Bologna

GIULIO BELLI Canzon a 2, cornetto o violino e tiorba
Concerti ecclesiastici, Venezia 1613

BIAGIO MARINI La Grilla, Sinfonia a 2
Madrigali op. II, Venezia 1618

BIAGIO MARINI Invito all’allegrezza
Scherzi e canzone op. V, Parma 1622

III. Luigi Rossi: Oratorio della Settimana Santa MV Cremona CD MVC 007-021).

Luigi Rossi: Oratorio della Settimana Santa

The Oratorio per la Settimana Santa, which is among the very first compositions to be labelled “oratorio” in the sources, was composed in Rome in the 1640s. It was probably performed in the Oratorio di San Girolamo della Carità, where Filippo Neri held his esercizi spirituali. It appears in a manuscript source from the Barberini collection of the Vatican Library which doesn’t specify its composer — although this is usually identified as Luigi Rossi — but names Giulio Cesare Raggioli as the author of the text. Both Raggioli and Rossi worked for members of the Barberini family, who were close relations of pope Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini), and themselves powerful patrons of music and the arts. an opera.

The Oratorio per la Settimana Santa is an oratorio volgare, meaning that the libretto is not in Latin but in Italian, and it is the earliest example of an oratorio based on the Passion of Christ. Its treatment of the Passion narrative is quite unusual, as it distances itself from the canonical gospels, adding characters like the Demons that seem to come straight out of an opera.

Luigi Rossi (Torremaggiore 1597-Rome 1653) was the pupil of the Flemish composer Giovanni de Macque, himself famous for his madrigals. From 1633 Rossi was the organist of S. Luigi dei Francesi and worked for Cardinal Antonio Barberini, writing operas, cantatas and oratorios. After the death of Urban VIII in 1644, he was invited to Paris by Cardinal Mazarin, where his opera Orfeo (1647) was a great success. His music was widely known and his style imitated throughout Europe.

From the conductor: The Oratorio of the Holy Week belongs to a small group of compositions in the oratorio style composed on a profane text contained in some of the Vatican Library’s Barberinian codices.  The author of the text, as indicated in the manuscript, is Giulio Cesare Raggioli, chamber master in service to Cardinal Barberini.  The attributing of the music to Luigi Rossi (Torremaggiore, 1597? – Rome, 1653) for the past fifty years or so has sometimes been questioned but seems the most plausible at this time.

The structure of the Oratorio of the Holy Week mirrors that of mid-17th Century customary Roman oratorios:  two-part division, succession of arias, ariosos, recitatives and choral parts (with not a secondary role for the choir) framed by an instrumental introduction and a concluding ‘madrigale ultimo’ of a meditative character containing the ‘moral’ concept expressed by the entire work’s text.  The absence of the ‘Testo’ or ‘Storico’, the oratorio’s narrative element (the Evangelist’s role in Bach’s oratorio passions comes to mind) stands out by comparison.

The subject matter – the crucifixion of Christ – which lends itself well to the Holy Week period, is handled in an original way.  The first part is divided into two moments:  in the first, the crowd asks that Barabbas be pardoned; after hesitating a long time, Pontius Pilate complies and declares his innocence.  In the second moment, a group of demons unexpectedly take over, triumphant in the face of Jesus’ imminent end.  This diabolic exultation accompanies the crucifixion at the beginning of the second part; the tone abruptly changes here making room for the Virgin Mary’s pleas.  When the demons announce Christ’s death, Mary’s great lament opens, interjected with the devils’ mocking comments.  The final chorus introduces a moving meditation on the Virgin Mary’s sorrow and the crucifixion.

Luigi Rossi’s persona and activity fall in with that group of composers, scholars, painters, architects and sculptors who, in Rome of the 1600s, would upset the schemes of Renaissance classicism, thus bestowing on art of their time an unmistakable union of expressive subjectivism and objectivity of structure.  Beginning with the first years of the century, Rome gradually took on a guiding role in art thanks to a decisive drive on the part of the popes and their powerful families.  Under the papacy of Urban VIII (Maffeo Barberini, 1623-44) – great literary adept and himself author of numerous poems in Latin and the vernacular – Bernini and Borromini would leave their indelible mark on the face of Rome.

The pope’s interest in music materialized above all in performances of melodramas at the Barberini Palace, one of Rome’s most sumptuous buildings erected in those very years and a work of Bernini and Borromini.  It is not by chance that the typical features of the palaces and churches, with their paintings and sculptures, reflect aspects of that epoch’s literary and musical production:  continuous movement, the sense of depth and mass, the fluidity between various parts of the structure, the search for spectacular results.  The considerable use of rhetorical means to provoke surprise, stupor, awe, the search for sonorous quality of words with an eye carefully cast inward to the world of the senses and aspects of reality perceptible through those senses, characterize opera and oratorio librettos of the epoch as well as those of Raggioli (the author of our text); these aspects were undoubtedly influenced by the Marino’s reaction to Petrarchism of the 1500s.

While pageantry and search for affect were typical elements of the taste and aesthetic of the time, the spirit of the profane oratorio was, on the other hand, rooted in ‘esercizi spirituali’ and the humus of the institution of the oratorio.

Typical of this singular combination of composed devotion and the taste for affect is the very structure of the Oratorio of the Holy Week’s libretto:  while the violent Multitude and the anguished Pontius Pilate, already present in medieval Passion plays, naturally spring from the biblical text, the Demons and Virgins are clear theatrical additions.  Diabolical crowds had already appeared in sacred performances of the 15th and 16th centuries, but their grim cheerfulness is rather unusual in moral and spiritual dialogues at the beginning of the 1600s.  The Virgin’s lament in the second part – «Tormenti non più», a central moment in the whole oratorio, has its roots in laments of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene of the medieval lauds tradition and, later, in madrigals from the end of the 1500s - beginning of the 1600s, which would become a particular kind of accompanied monody by the middle of the century.

In the same vein is Mary Magdalene’s lament («Lagrime amare») by Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665), conveniently laid down alongside the oratorio in the present performance.  In this piece, the last of a printed collection published in 1638 (Dialoghi e sonetti posti in musica), all means available to vocal technique are employed toward expressive ends.  Of significant import in this sense is the experimental use of particular microtonal effects which Mazzocchi indicates using notational signs created for the occasion, thus expressly attaching himself to the theory of Greek enharmonic genus.

In the Oratorio of the Holy Week, the Virgin Mary’s lament is depicted in more composed but equally dramatic tones:  the sorrow and frustration of Mary, heightened by the playful wails of the Demons, is made highly expressive by dissonances in the instrumental parts; the final section of the aria is based on a passacaglia bass, typically associated with laments of this epoch.  Another very moving moment in the first part, if only for its solemnity, portrays Pontius Pilate’s anguish when faced with his own decision in the arioso «O di colpo mortale».  Even more eloquent is the ‘madrigale ultimo’  which seals the entire composition («Piangete, occhi piangete») where imitative ideas, bitter dissonances, the insertion of more declamatory moments paint a picture that, while powerfully striking, has a sober and austere quality.

1.   Libro primo di sinfonie a 4: Sinfonia   — Ensemble L'aurora SoaveDiego Cantalupi  2:24

2.   Dialoghi e sonetti: La maddalena ricorre alle Lagrime  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial  4:24

3  Oratorio della settimana santa, prima parte: Sinfonia  — Ensemble L'aurora SoaveDiego Cantalupi  5:12

Oratorio della settimana santa, prima parte: Così varia è la fortuna  — Gianluca BurattoDiego CantalupiNurial RialCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial, Gianluca Buratto, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  3:58

5  Oratorio della settimana santa, prima parte: Respirate altre caverne   — Diego CantalupiNurial RialCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial, Pierluigi Manzoni, Massimo Piani, Franco Stringaro, Coro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaPierluigi Manzoni  4:25

6  Oratorio della settimana santa, prima parte: O menzogne fortunate  — Diego CantalupiCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  2:02

7  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: Sinfonia  — Diego CantalupiCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveFranco StringaroEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Franco Stringaro, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  3:55

8  Oratotio della settimana santa: seconda parte: Tormenti non più  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial  4:39

9  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: Asprissimi chiodi  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial  2:13

10  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: E tu croce ingemmata  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial  1:25

11  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: O follia di cieca fé  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  3:03

12  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: Così empio valor  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  3:39

13  Oratorio della settimana santa, seconda parte: Piangete, occhi piangete  — Diego CantalupiNurial RialCoro del Friuli Venezia GiuliaEnsemble L'aurora SoaveEnsemble L'aurora Soave, Diego Cantalupi, Nurial Rial, Coro del Friuli Venezia Giulia  4:33

Composer Info


CD Info

CD TC 600210; CD MCV 018-45; CD MVC 007-021