Music of Gabrieli & His Contemporaries
A few years ago I attended an American Music Library Association convention in Washington DC and one of the live musical highlights of the programme was provided by brass groups, gathered above the marbled stairways of the foyer of the Library of Congress, to play renaissance music with glorious effect. Indeed, the music of Giovanni Gabrieli and his contemporaries resonates splendidly on modern instruments, although one must remember that the original scoring, while it could include primitive trumpets, mainly used alongside trombones, cornettos. These are wooden instruments with finger holes, although a cupped mouthpiece would have given a 'tongued' production. So the present collection using modern instruments (including French horns) does not attempt to imitate what Venetians would have expected to hear at the end of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. But the Telarc engineers seldom disappoint us and there is no questioning the thrilling sonorities and natural brilliance of the brass groups here. The antiphony of two or three choirs is separated, yet blended within an almost ideal acoustic, that of Studio A of the Berkshire Performing Arts Center, Lenox, Massachusetts.
The Empire brass consist of five players and they are augmented by 12 others as required; a three-coloured diagram at the centre of the accompanying notes shows the layout for each of these highly contrasted pieces. This is emphatically not a CD to play all at once, but dipped into it will certainly be found rewarding. The opening Gabrieli ''Canzon duodecimi'' from the Sacrae symphoniae is overwhelmingly sumptuous, using virtually the whole group, but later the chorale and the Dance No. 6 by Heinrich Isaac show how beautifully the three groups can sound when playing gently Isaac's music has an unforgettable serene melancholy. Banchieri's three concertos are splendidly diverse, with the first—La battaglia, lightly polyphonic in its interplay and the third—Magnificat—essentially harmonic in style, moving to a grand climax. Lauda Jerusalem, the single piece by Diaz Besson, has undoubted individuality, and the Canzons of Giovanni Gabrieli which make up the largest part of the concert are imaginatively contrasted in mood and invention—the Sonata XIX is a particularly memorable piece. One wishes all CDs were as well documented as this one: the non-specialist listener will find all the information he or she requires.'