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Although Giovanni Paolo
Colonna (1637-95) is very closely associated with the vast San Petronio
Basilica in Bologna—he was organist and maestro di cappella there—ensemble
director Nicolas Achten makes the wise decision to record these
chamber-scale motets in a smaller place with a smaller organ. That allows
him to set quick tempos and employ an exhilarating vocal breathlessness to
animate these seven motets for 2 or 3 voices from Colonna’s Opus 3 of 1681.
Let me explain my use of the
word “breathlessness”: it’s not at all a lack of breath, but rather an eager
and impatient happiness to deliver a message through singing. As a listener
I shared the sheer joy of it all, feeling as if the singers simply can’t
wait to share news with someone they care about. The message is too
important to be delayed. The five instrumental pieces here not only serve as
prefaces to the motets and ways for us to enjoy skillful playing on a range
of instruments, but also as a way to allow the listener to catch his breath
before the next motet. For instance, Arresti’s Sonata XVI (with a gentle
melody played on soprano lute) sits between the scarcely-contained
exuberance of ‘O Splendida Dies’ for soprano and baritone and the ecstatic
soaring Marian homage of ‘Pulchra Es’ for two sopranos. Tempos are fast but
never (quite) out of control.
Notes, texts, translations.