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Some Old Music for the Lenten Pilgrimage

available at Amazon
Santiago a cappella: Polyphony from Spain's Golden Age, Monteverdi Choir, J. E. Gardiner

(released on September 28, 2010)
SDG 710 | 66'36"
After the Brahms reviewed yesterday, delights continue to cross my desk from John Eliot Gardiner's Soli Deo Gloria label. This beautifully repackaged disc is a re-release of an album from 2005, a program undertaken to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Monteverdi Choir. The group made the unusual but aesthetically grand decision to travel the camino di Santiago, the old pilgrimage route to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the legendary burial place of the apostle James (that is, the son of Zebedee known as James the Greater -- thus the symbol of James and the Santiago pilgrims, the scallop, on the disc's cover). The group made this recording before they left on the pilgrimage in 2004 (in the gorgeous acoustic of St. Alban the Martyr in London), and a second one after returning: both contained music that the musicians performed in the pilgrimage churches along the route. The beautifully performed selections include a piece (the rather simple three-voice virelai Mariam, matrem virginem, attolite) taken from the Llibre Vermeil, a manuscript notated at the end of the 14th century and containing music performed by and for the Santiago pilgrims as they passed through the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, as well as later pieces by the Spanish and Portuguese masters Victoria, Guerrero, Lobo, Cardoso, and the transplanted Flemish composer Philippe Rogier. The pieces have been recorded in other places, and the performances have flaws (minor tuning infelicities and the occasional single voice sticking out from the ensemble), but this is a beautifully conceived musical imagining of the pilgrim's way. About half of the pieces are proper to the season of Lent and Holy Week, making it appropriately seasonal listening at this time of year.

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