Feature: Alessandro Grandi (±1586 – 1630): Salve Regina

This wonderful setting of the Salve is a particularly fine example of what a talented composer does when confronted with artistic restrictions. Grandi was one of those composers who flourished in Venice during Monteverdi’s time and in his shadow. He’d held posts as a maestro di capella in Ferrara, and had previously sung and studied in Venice under Giovanni Gabrieli and Giovanni Croce. By 1617 when he moved permanently to Venice to work under Monteverdi as his choirmaster at a salary of 80 ducats a year he’d held a variety of senior posts and was a published composer. Promotions, money, and honour soon followed in 1618 he was made a singing teacher at the ducal seminary, and on 17 November 1620 he became Monteverdi’s deputy at an annual salary of 120 ducats. He worked under Monteverdi for seven years and like Monteverdi abandoned the stile antico (prima pratica) in favour of the musical possibilities of the seconda pratica. Monteverdi who was no fool clearly recognised that Grandi’s talents could threaten his own very lucrative position and forbade Grandi from composing for large forces.

Nothing daunted Grandi immersed himself in the tradition of both sacred and secular monody in Venice and plunged himself into the composition of pieces in that tradition. He set to and for seven years between 1620 and 1627 composed solo motets (both with and without obligato accompaniment), and solo cantatas and arias both of which were new genres for him. By the time those seven years were ended Grandi’s published works included no less than books of motets each of which bears eloquent testimony to his skill as a melodist with a distinct flair for musical drama. His Salve which you can hear below is a perfect example of his music of this period with its use of both recitar cantando and concertante writing. I love how the dialogue between the instruments and the voice highlight the beauty of each.

It’s this dexterous handling of musical complementarity that made Grandi such a revered and influential figure both during his lifetime and after his death. His motets especially the three volumes of Motteti con sinfonie with their fusion of monody and the trio sonata set the stage for the tradition of the ‘sacred concerto’  the tradition from which first Schütz and then Bach directly took their inspiration for their cantatas.

Enjoy :-).

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Photo: Floor tile, Chiesa San Felipe, Venice.

Photo: Floor tile, Chiesa San Felipe, Venice.

Alessandro Grandi (±1586 – 1630): Salve Regina

Text & Translation: Salve Regina

LatinModern English TranslationTraditional English Translation
Salve regina, mater misericordiae,Hail, O queen, mother of mercy,Hail, holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
vita, dulcedo et spes nostra salve.our life, sweetness and hope, hail.our life, our sweetness and our hope.
Ad te clamamus exsules filii Hevae,To thee do we sigh, daughter of Eve,To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve;
ad te suspiramus gementes et flentesmourning and weepingto thee do we send up our sighs,
in hac lacrimarum valle.in this vale of tears.mourning and weeping in this valley of tears.
Eia ergo advocata nostraO you our advocate,Turn then, most gracious advocate,
illos tuos misericordes oculos ad nos converte.turn on us thy merciful eyes.thine eyes of mercy toward us;
Et Iesum benedictum fructum ventris tuiAnd after this our exile show unto us Jesus,And after this our exile, show unto us
nobis post hoc exsilium ostende.the blessed fruit of thy womb.the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clemens, o pia, o dulcis virgo Maria.O merciful, O loving, O sweet virgin Mary.O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

Performers: Philippe Jaroussky, Ensemble Artaserse

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