Posts Tagged ‘ Baroque choral music ’

Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676): Magnificat A Sei Voci

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August 19, 2014

Cavalli was born in Crema in February 1602 the son of Giovanni Battista Caletti Bruni, who at that time was maestro di cappella in Crema's Cathedral. He had a particularly beautiful voice, so much so that Federigo Cavalli, the chief magistrate of the city and one of Venice's foremost aristocrats took the then fourteen-year old boy with him to Venice promising that not only would he be fed and paid but that Monteverdi himself would be his music teacher (Cavalli changed his name from Bruni to Cavalli in gratitude). His musical career is best described as one of steady progression rather than a meteoric rise, his fame spread and his compositional technique matured, and Cavalli rose steadily through the ranks of the musical profession until he was so well-thought-of that when Monteverdi died it was Cavalli who was hailed as his successor as the most important musical force in The Serene Republic.

He composed this six-part setting of the Magnificat in 1650 to complete the posthumous edition of the Messa a Quattro voci e Salmi published in memory of his mentor, maestro, and friend Claudio Monteverdi.

It's a very good example of what for lack of a better term I'll call post-Monteverdi Venetian. Its structure is highly sectionalised and it's marked by a wonderfully light 'concertato misto' approach. Indeed 'misto' (mixed) describes it precisely, and Cavalli handling of this variation is deft and masterful, there are  solos, duets, trios, embellishments to the vocal line, and some verse taut and tersely written tutti that provide both punctuation and relief.

Enjoy :-)

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Magnificat RV610a

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July 24, 2014

There are several versions of Vivaldi's Magnificat in G minor the earliest would most likely have been written for the Pietà and dates to some time in or around 1715. Early in the 1720s Vivaldi revisited it reworking the lower voices to make them more suitable for lower voices and adding a pair oboes for whom he expanded 'Sicut locutus est' so that he could take advantage of their novel and pleasing sound in obbligato passages. So much for the instrumental accompaniment what of the disposal of the vocal forces? Well it's specified for two cori, there's some reworking, and Vivaldi's directions on the score specify which of the two cori (or both) should sing what. But to be honest all of that is more a question of Vivaldi trying to show that he was up to date with musical fashion than anything else as the work is distinctly monochoral in its structure and conception. It's an admirlably concise and restrained setting that nevertheless manages to fit a lot of musical drama into very little space. Thus we have the chromaticism of the opening verse followed by a tripartite aria in which each of the three succeeding verses is taken by a different voice this 'aria a tre' is succeeded by the wonderfully poignant  choral handling of 'Et misericordia eius',  which is followed by two choral movements. These are a delight I like how Vivaldi  illustrates the Lord's strength over the bass line ('Fecit potentiam') and the graphic way in which the mighty are put down and the humble are exalted. The soprano duet in which the hungry are 'filled with good things' (Esurientes implevit bonis) is downright charming while the 'Sicut locutus est' terzet which follows on from the brief 'suscepit' is a cheerful and optimistic piece of music – which must have caused a lot of raised eyebrows when it was first heard. Finally the doxology as you might expect opens with a restatement of the work's opening which gives way to a splendidly muscular traditional double fugue. Not easy to sing but a joy to listen to when it's sung well as the excellent Argentinian choir Coral Mirabilia directed by Fernando Polonuer demonstrate below. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Beatus vir RV598

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July 17, 2014

Beatus vir RV598 is the second of Vivaldi's two settings of Psalm 111 (112) based upon a now lost original that have survived (I wrote about the other one last week see: Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741): Beatus vir RV597 | Saturday Chorale). It's a setting in B flat major and it's something of an oddity because he set it for one coro in being, in a single movement,  but requiring both choir and soloists. This particular disposition of his musical forces makes it unique amongst his surviving sacred works. He must have written it for the Pietà during his first period there (1713–1719) so it's relatively early and he had to overcome several problems to do it not the least of which is the lenght of the text. He solved the problem by writing it as a massively expanded instrumental concerto. There are no less than twenty-five clearly distinguishable sections either ritornelli or episodes and he wanders all over the scale too there are six keys as well as the tonic. It's quite an engenious piece who but a supremely talented composer such as Vivaldi could pull off the trick of having the choir and the three soloist act both singly and in combination as though they were soloists in an instrumental concerto? It's a wonderful piece of music not as well known as its companion but very well worth your while listening to. Keep your ear out for the six note underpinning cadential phrase – it's a lovely little thing. Enjoy :-)

mfi

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John Blow (1649 – 1708): I will hearken

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July 7, 2014

The collapse of the Puritan regime and the restoration of the Stuart monarchy under Charles II in 1660 meant an immediate change in the style of government. Charles' government immediate priority was restoring those institutions of state that the Puritans had destroyed and that included the Chapel Royal which had been a vital centre of English musical life.  Cooke – Charles' first choirmaster had a difficult task because the tradition of training choirboys had been destroyed but he did have benefit of being able to ride a wave of pent-up creative energy. Blow was a chorister at at Newark Parish Church when Cooke conscripted him into Chapel Royal's choir thirteen years later Blow was appointed as as Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal a post he held for nearly thirty five years combining it with a very successful career as a composer.

His setting of verses 8-12 of psalm 85 is one two dozen symphony anthems that he composed for the Chapel Royal.  It's a contemplative and quite intimate piece that uses short ritornellos that develop naturally from the vocal material rather than a main symphony. Blow chose to have the instruments accompany the voices instead of alternating with them and it is this innovation which accounts for the piece's pleasing richness and the seamlessness of its texture. Enjoy :-).

mfi

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Heinrich Schütz (1585–1672): Uppsala Magnificat SWV 468

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June 28, 2014

Heinrich Schütz's Latin setting of the Magnificat was one of a number of works discovered in the music collection in Uppsala University's library it's scored for four soloists, two four voice choruses, two violins, three trombones and continuo  and reflects Schütz' studies in Italy. It's clearly influenced by Monteverdi's Magnificat setting in the 1610 Vespers but it's far more continuous and structurally integrated than Monteverdi's piece. It's very "Venetian" with wonderful harmonies and shows Schütz' complete and confident mastery of writing both for brass and polychoral writing. His teacher Giovanni Gabrieli would surely have been proud. You'll find it below performed by the remarkably talented young French ensemble la Chapelle Rhénane. Enjoy :-).

markfromireland

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