STRIGGIO: Ecce beatam lucem; other works; PLAINCHANT; TALLIS; VINCENZO GALILEI – I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth – Decca 478 2750 CD + DVD
Published on July 5, 2011
ALESANDRO STRIGGIO: Ecce beatam lucem; Missa Ecco si beato giorno; Fuggi, spene mia; O giovenil ardire; Altr’io che queste spighe; D’ogni gratia et d’amore; O de la bella Etruria invitto Duce; Caro dulce ben mio; Miser’oime; PLAINCHANT: Spem in alium; TALLIS: Spem in alium; VINCENZO GALILEI: Contrapunto Secundo di BM – I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth – Decca 478 2750 CD + DVD, 68:53 ****:
Alessandro Striggio (1536-92) was a man whose life was divided among three chief pursuits–his family, work for the Floentine Medicis, and his court connections in Mantua. Florence knew no higher paid musician at the time, and at least seven books of madrigals and numerous anthologies were printed during his lifetime. As a curio, his son of the same name would provide the libretto for Monteverdi’s Orfeo.
The centerpiece of this album is the 40-part mass Ecco si beato giorno, most likely based on an earlier motet (also 40-part) Ecce beatem lucem. The 40 parts are divided into five separate choirs of eight, and though the notes are careful to point out that instrumentalists were added to subsequent performances without objection on the part of Striggio, it is equally clear that the original conception most likely did not envision the presence of instruments, though local custom would sway in whatever direction it wished. In this recording the instruments are used, liberally and lavishly, and I can’t say that I mind a bit. But in nod to “authenticity” (and you make your own definition of that) the choice of assignment has been made solely by the directors and not from any preexisting directions from the composer. The right, middle, and left choirs have different instrumental groups assigned to them (broken consort, brass, and strings respectively) while the two “inner” choirs retain their primary vocal character. It seems to work and work well, and I found the effect, even in standard good-sounding stereo, to be quite alluring. The music itself is nothing revelatory or particularly groundbreaking, using a very choral harmonic foundation with an interweaving in the upper parts of moderate contrapuntal activity. THe result is very effective and wonderfully beautiful.
Tallis’s Spem in alium is another ballgame altogether in terms of counterpoint, one of the wonders of the age and greatest creations of the Renaissance. I like this combined voice-instrument version very much, but I have yet to hear anything that compares with Andrew Parrott’s two-volume Latin Church Music on EMI–that album is a desert island issue, and remains my Spem of choice. The rest of the album, the motets by Striggio and the brief piece by Vincenzo Galilei (1520s-91) are equally affecting and worth entries on this disc, and the whole is easily recommendable.
As a bonus we get on the DVD some performances of the Striggio Ecce and the mass, along with the Spem, all ostensibly in surround sound, though I will never know because my Panasonic BD-60 Blu-ray player refused to play it. I could hear and see it on the computer but the surround was not an option so maybe you will have better luck than me!
— Steven Ritter