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  41:2 (11-12 /20187
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Reviewer: Barry Brenesal


The liner notes on this release spend a fair amount of space discussing the introductory comments Benedetto Marcello (1686–1739) wrote to several volumes of his published psalms. He discussed ancient Greek and Jewish sacred melodies, the immediacy created by their use in his compositions, and the difficulties encountered in interpreting them for use with modern pitches and note values, as well as considerations of vocal ranges and performance practice. Yet I find a complete disconnect between these theories and the music by all the composers on this disc, which is, quite simply, the Italian galant at its most formulaic and least expressive. Its textures are thin, its harmonic progressions are clichés. Expressive shifts within any given text are simply ignored by the composers. The greatest gifts of the Italian galant, energy and luminous melody, are nowhere apparent, as they are, for example, in so much music by Sammartini, Gluck, and Johann Christian Bach.

The best that can be said of this album is the light, attractive sound achieved by La Gioia Armonica. It’s a seven-person group, though only two members, the founders and primary performers on this release, are mentioned on the jewel box. Jürgen Banholzer conducts and supplies organ continuo, while Margit Übellacker is featured on psaltery. If you’re not familiar with the instrument, its plucked sound is close to that of a dulcimer or cimbalom, but with a much shorter sustain time and a more delicate tone. The musicians lend luster to the otherwise amiable but uninteresting Sonata à due by Melchiorre Chiesa.

Countertenor Terry Wey performs acceptably, but the music doesn’t make use of his strengths in breath support and agility. Arguably good tonal variety might have helped here a bit, but coloring the tone is not something many countertenors typically manage well. There’s a nice presence to the sound, but that and these performances can’t save this wallpaper music. Take a pass.

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