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GRAMOPHONE ( 01/ 2019)
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Reviewer:  David Vickers

The Florentine theorbist Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (1681/82‑1732) worked for over 30 years at the Habsburg court in Vienna. The enterprising György Vashegyi and his Budapest-based forces tackle the Missa Sancti Pauli preserved in the library of Vienna's Schottenstift Benedictine monastery (dated March 1715 but performed from time to time up until 1857). The Orfeo Orchestra's taut strings are led expertly by violinist Simon Standage and there is judicious continuoplaying from theorbist István Györe and organist Augustin Szokos. The concise contributions of soloists are interwoven deftly with the Purcell Choir's polished yet warmly sonorous singing of rich counterpoint; the excellent diction (standard Italian Latin rather than German pronunciation) and the contrapuntal details are balanced and projected with impeccable transparency. Astonishing chromaticism emphasising the reference to mercy in‘Qui tollis peccata mundi’was tailor-made for the learned tastes of the Habsburgs. The dramatic nature of Conti’s writing is highlighted by the sudden change of key and unsettled harmonic modulations in' Crucifixus’ followed by the restoration of lucid extroversion form 'Et resurrexit’.

The Schottenstift manuscript also has a sincere Sonata in B flat and turbulent motet Fastos caeli audite inserted between the Gloria and the Credo; they are included in this recording in situ, the virtuoso motet sung by Péter Bárány with intelligence albeit frailty. As an afterpiece, the standalone aria Pie Jesu, ad te refugio (packed with extraordinary dissonances) is sung eloquently by Zoltán Megyesi. I wonder if it was written for Francesco Borosini: the tenor who starred in Handel’s Tamerlano and Rodelinda was employed at the Vienna court chapel from 1712 to 1731.

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