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Fanfare Magazine: 43:2 (11-12/2019) 
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Harmonia Mundi

Passions Product Image

Code-barres / Barcode : 3149020938867

Reviewer: J. F. Weber

The subtitle is “Venice, 1600–1750,” but the composers range from Giovanni Gabrieli (b. 1555) to Antonio Lotti (d. 1740), so the timespan is rounded off. This large vocal ensemble with nine players chooses seven examples from the obvious leading light, Claudio Monteverdi, including a couple of excerpts from larger works, three pieces from Selva morale e spirituale, and the 1620 Adoramus te Christe. Three familiar settings of Lotti’s Crucifixus are included, as Martin Neary did on Miserere (Fanfare 19:6). Tarquinio Merula (1595–1665) is included but not the less famous and earlier Venetian, Claudio Merulo (1533–1604), saving us some confusion.

The largest work, though less than 10 minutes, leads off the program, twice beautifully recorded by Montserrat Figueras, first on a CD devoted to the composer (17:2, 32:4) and then on her touching Ninna Nanna (26:6). Also worth singling out are Francesco Cavalli’s Salve Regina à 4 (1656), Lotti’s In una siepe ombrosa, and Giovanni Gabrieli’s Exaudi me Domine (1615). The rest of the 20 tracks are mostly brief and insignificant, as if to space out the gems.

Jourdain assembled the program to link the secular with the sacred, asking how unlikely it would be for Venetian composers to write “sacred music that has no theatrical dimension” or “secular music that was not inspired by transcendence.” This program has a framework similar to his previous Melancholia (42:4), though there the framework depended on the texts, here on the music. The settings of Crucifixus are sprinkled through the program like a theme. Of the five settings heard here, Monteverdi’s, like Caldara’s (and another by Lotti for five voices), were not part of a larger composition. These three Lotti settings, like two others for four voices, were taken from Credo settings that are generally ignored now.

Jourdain calls attention to the placement of two 16-voice pieces in succession, the latest (Caldara’s) and the earliest (Gabrieli’s) of all the works on the disc. But Gabrieli’s is polychoral, while Caldara writes for one choir. He also refers to the teacher–pupil connections among Venetian composers, even mentioning several not represented here. The overarching theme, of course, is passions, taken in multiple meanings, the affetti (human passions), the Passion of Christ, and his own passion for Venetian music. It’s the kind of thematic program that successfully unites a disparate collection of musical works. Well done.

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