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Briefly Noted: Per la Vergine Maria

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Per la Vergine Maria, Concerto Italiano, R. Alessandrini

(released on June 28, 2011)
Naive OP 30505 | 1h03
We enjoy Concerto Italiano's releases of lesser-known 18th-century sacred music -- the last one was a pairing of Mass settings by Pergolesi and Alessandro Scarlatti. This disc, from last year, brings together settings of Latin Marian texts: Claudio Monteverdi's Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a 6 voci; three 8-voice settings of the Magnificat by Pietro Paolo Bencini (c. 1675-1755), Padre Soler (1729-1783), and Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674); two settings of the Salve Regina, for nine voices by Alessandro Melani (1639-1703) and for four voices by Alessandro Scarlatti; and Stravinsky's 4-voice setting of the Ave Maria. The settings are all rather simple, in mostly homophonic textures, performed with one singer to a part and the continuo accompaniment realized by organ and two theorbos. The sound is magnificent, capturing some, but not too much, of the generously resonant acoustic of the location, the Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua. The musical performances are all top-notch, too, with an ensemble of nine lovely voices blended into a cohesive ensemble of various combinations. There are some passages that feature one or more solo passages, with only one long solo, rendered plangently by soprano Monica Piccinini, in Melani's lovely Salve Regina. Bencini's virtually unknown setting of the Magnificat, with its meditative repetitions of two-chord patterns and affecting chain sequences, should be on every choir conductor's radar, as should the pieces by Scarlatti and Carissimi. Concluding with the Stravinsky miniature is a clever way to trace the connection between the beginning and end of the tonal era.

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