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GRAMOPHONE (12/2021)
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Reviewer: Alexandra Coghlan

A Gabrieli Angelus ad pastores. Angelus ad pastores ait. Ave regina. Benedicam Dominum. Canzon ariosa. Deus misereatur nostri. Deus, qui beatum Marcum. Domine Deus meus. Domine, ne in furore tuo. Egredimini. Exultate iusti. Iubilate Deo. Kyrie. O gloriosa Domina. Recercare arioso. Ricercare in C. Sancta Maria. Sanctus. Toccata primi toni Weser-Renaissance Bremen / Manfred Cordes with Edoardo Bellotti org CPO F CPO555 291 2 (69’ • DDD • T/t)

It has been well over two decades since Manfred Cordes and his scrupulously excellent period ensemble WeserRenaissance Bremen released their first disc of Andrea Gabrieli’s music. That 1999 collection of secular ‘Madrigali e canzoni’ (11/99) is now joined by a companion release of the composer’s sacred works.

Veronika Greuel’s expansive booklet essay makes a strong case for the continuity, both civic and musical, that existed between the two spheres in 16th-century Venice, where the Doge held both sacred and secular authority. Her compelling account of the role of music – as propaganda, celebration and ritual – makes you wish that Cordes had combined the worlds here, offering a greater sense of the scope and range demanded of a musician such as the elder Gabrieli, latterly (after an earlier application was rejected) employed at St Mark’s.

Reviewing the earlier recording in Gramophone, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood acknowledged the ‘slightly humdrum’ quality of some of the repertoire. This sense of efficient, functional music persists through the motets and organ pieces included here, as does a performance style better suited to stately, ceremonial grandeur than drama.

For the latter, best skip straight to Edoardo Bellotti’s organ solos – a beguiling collection of toccatas and canzonas by the composer, as well as the performer’s own intabulation of Gabrieli’s Angelus ad pastores. Performing on a Pradella replica of a 17th-century northern Italian instrument, whose characterful tone matches Cordes’s early brass and wind for gusty breadth, these works sing with an explicit virtuosity absent in the more sober vocal music.

Highlights include the graceful Iubilate Deo a 8 with its shifting moods and time signatures, each antiphonal exchange beckoning in a new sonic world; the pristine clarity and lightness of the four-voice Angelus ad pastores (the unaccompanied texture a rarity in this collection); and the 12-part richness – brocade-heavy – of opener Deus misereatur nostri, three trombones anchoring its emphatic supplication.

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