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GRAMOPHONE (10/2019)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

It is said that when Alessandro Grandi left Venice (where he was born and had been trained and worked all his life) for Bergamo, tensions with the maestro di cappella, Monteverdi, may have been a contributory factor. Listening to this, one may imagine that Monteverdi, for all his genius, might have found the presence on his turf of such a talented young rival (and local talent, to boot) unnerving. Grandi has benefited from several anthologies all to himself, but so glorious is this music that there will always be space for more. Although several of the pieces heard here will already be familiar to devotees of this repertory (the hyper-expressive Marian lament Plorabo, for instance), this anthology serves as the perfect introduction, and is arguably more varied than most: Grandi’s technical fluency matches his inspiration. He was equally comfortable in the smaller-scale motet and in the more elaborate Vespers setting, like the Nisi Dominus heard at the very end.

At any rate, Grandi gives performers more than enough to sink their teeth into, and Accademia d’Arcadia and Ensemble UtFaSol respond enthusiastically. Each piece has something different to say about its materials, whether voices are heard with or without obbligato instruments, and when the forces combine at the end the effect is truly climactic. Some issues with tuning (especially on the cantus line) notwithstanding, they make the most of the music’s extroversion – truly, this is early music … for people who think they don’t like early music.

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