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Briefly Noted: Cavalli's Vespers

available at Amazon
F. Cavalli, Vespero delle domeniche, Coro C. Monteverdi di Crema, La Pifarescha, B. Gini

(released on May 26, 2015)
Dynamic CDS7714 | 87'04"
Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) was one of the important composers of the first wave of Venetian opera. As such we have even had the occasional chance to review his work in live performance. He was also one of the successors of Claudio Monteverdi, his one-time teacher, as director of music at San Marco in Venice. Italian conductor Bruno Gini has been undertaking a recorded survey of Cavalli's sacred music with his Coro Claudio Monteverdi di Crema. The most recent disc includes all of Cavalli's late Vespers service, including the five standard psalms of Vespers plus Magnificat, as well as a series of alternate psalms, from which one could have all possible versions of the Vespers service for Sundays throughout the year.

The connection to the ensemble is pleasing, since Cavalli was born and raised in Crema, receiving his first musical education as a boy chorister in the cathedral there, and this disc was captured in the Chiesa di San Bernardino in Crema, which has been made into an auditorium. To date, Gini and his forces have also made recordings of the composer's Requiem Mass, his five other settings of the Magnificat, and the Vespero Delli Cinque Laudate for San Marco. By comparison to the works on those recordings, which feature more operatic pieces for solo and duo voices, the rather plain double-chorus style Cavalli sticks to in these Vespers pieces is boring and homophonic, with the only variation between a small chorus of favoriti and full chorus. On one hand, Gini's singers are not all exceptional, and there are some infelicities in blend, intonation, and tone color. On the other hand, the CD is presented without "any manipulation, equalization, or dynamic alteration," which is refreshing by its bracing qualities, with generally fine instrumental playing from the ensemble La Pifarescha sometimes overpowering the voices.

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