La fiesta de Pascua en Piazza Navona
This project takes as its basis a Roman Easter procession in and around the Piazza Navona from the church of San Giacomo degli Spagnoli during the later 16th century. As its name implies, this institution was a hub of the city’s Spanish community from its foundation at the turn of the 16th century. Although there is an undeniably Spanish flavour to the proceedings (Victoria, unsurprisingly, being particularly well represented), the music recorded here is international in character, in keeping with the practice of the time.
The great strength of a programme such as this is that it encompasses a wide variety of musical genres and types of performance: we hear now an a cappella choir, now an accompanied one; now a wind band, now trumpeters blaring out a fanfare; now a dialogue for vocal soloists with continuo, now a festive Te Deum with all the trimmings. The same goes for the pieces themselves: hymns, motets, laude, sequences, responsories, ricercars…It’s all wonderfully varied and introduces composers who struggle to find representation on disc (including anonymous ones), but whose works splendidly fulfil the purposes for which they were written. The Te Deum just mentioned is by Jacobus de Kerle and was written for performance at the Council of Trent. When performed as here, with proper verve and instrumental finery, the effect of this simple polyphony is undeniable.
Remarkably perhaps for such a varied project, the performances exhibit a rare degree of confidence throughout (whatever the medium), characterised by a fluency and conviction worthy of the best reconstructions. Singing, ensemble, soloists are all first-rate. Most importantly, perhaps, one gets that nearly undefinable sense of occasion that is essential to such an enterprise: whether or not one imagines oneself on the Piazza Navona is a moot point but one has the sense of a single, richly textured event, captured and experienced entire. One of my picks of 2012, undoubtedly.