Thursday 11 May 2023

Giovanni Legrenzi: Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano explore motets by one of Venice's most prominent composers

Giovanni Legrenzi: motets; Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini; Naive

Giovanni Legrenzi: motets; Concerto Italiano, Rinaldo Alessandrini; Naive

Concerto Italiano bring out the engaging madrigalian quality of the motets by one of Venice's most prominent and influential composers from the late 17th century

For this disc from Naive, Rinaldo Alessandrini and Concerto Italiano explore the published motets of Giovanni Legrenzi. Not that much of a name today, but in the late 17th century, one of Venice's most prominent and influential composers, eventually became maestro di cappella at San Marco in 1685.

Born and raised in Bergamo, his first post was in that city then he moved on to Ferrara and finally settled in Venice in 1670 where he took a variety of posts. In 1676 he was a finalist for appointment as maestro at San Marco in succession to Francesco Cavalli, losing by a single vote to Natale Monferrato, and he would succeed Monferrato in the post in 1685. His pupils would include Lotti, Gasparini and Albinoni.

On this disc, we hear a selection of his motets from collections he published in 1655, 1660 and 1665. That this was music written for publication is important, as the CD booklet is at pains to point out. The motet was a very flexible, variable form, allowing all sorts of regional dialects. Legrenzi would fall foul of this in 1669 when applying for the job as maestro di cappella of Milan Cathedral, only to be told that his compositions were too long and not varied enough, that he wrote in the style of Ferrara.

For liturgical use, there was almost certainly a judicial use of the more old-fashioned stile antico, but for publication, the music needed to be varied and up to the minute. Legrenzi's motets written for San Marco, largely surviving in manuscript, are evidently in this style. The music on this disc is far more varied and lively, and we can hear distinct echoes of the influence of composers like Monteverdi.

From the very first notes of the disc, Alma redemptoris mater seems to evoke the 17th-century madrigal as much as sacred music.  Whilst the second number, Albescite flores, cirescite frondes has a similar dance-like, madrigalian quality. This is emphasised by the singers' lively and highly text-based delivery. We have just five singers, Sonia Tedla (soprano), Elena Carzaniga (alto), Valerio Contaldo and Rafffaele Giordani (tenors), and Salvo Vitale (bass), with Ugo di Giovanni and Franco Pavan (theorbo), directed by Rinaldo Alessandrini from the organ.

As befits the madrigalian style of the performance, this is a vocal ensemble with five fine solo voices, which come together in responsive ensembles. The results have an immediacy and liveliness which seems entirely apposite to this vivid music, but rather surprising considering the sacred nature of the works. For Qui non renuntiati omnibus, que possedet, we have a dialogue between Christ and the disciples, set for three voices, Christ (bass) and disciples (two tenors), a motet for three voices that comes over for all the world as a chunk of operatic dialogue. 

These thoughts continue throughout the disc where the excellent performers bring out the lively vividness of Legrenzi's music, that sense of the madrigals and operas that his singers would have been familiar with and probably took part in. There is something joyfully engaging about the whole disc, with the performers giving this lively music a sense of vivid presence.

Giovanni Legrenzi (1626-1690) - alma redemptoris mater a cinque voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - albescite flores, virescite frondes a quattro voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - qui non renuntiat omnibus a tre voci, due tenori e basso
Giovanni Legrenzi - ave, regina caelorum a cinque voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - obstupescite caelites, obmutescite angeli a quattro voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - quis ascendit in montem sanctum sion? a due voci, soprano e basso
Giovanni Legrenzi - lettanie a cinque voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - exultemus omnes et laetemur, filiae ierusalem a due voci,soprano e tenore
Giovanni Legrenzi - adoramus te, sanctissimam crucem a quattro voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - regina caeli laetare a cinque voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - expergiscimini mortales, surgite a somno a tre voci, alto, tenore e basso
Giovanni Legrenzi - venite omnes, currite populi a quattro voci
Giovanni Legrenzi - salve regina, mater misericordiae a cinque voci
Concerto Italiano - Sonia Tedla (soprano), Elena Carzaniga (alto), Valerio Contaldo and Rafffaele Giordani (tenors), Salvo Vitale (bass), Ugo di Giovanni and Franco Pavan (theorbo)
Rinaldo Alessandrini
Recorded 11-14 July 2019, parco della musica, studio 3, Rome
NAIVE OP 3079 1CD [73.15]

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