Felice Anerio (±1560-1614) is the older but lesser-known of the Anerio brothers. He had a very successful musical career starting his career as a choirboy in S. Maria Maggiore before transferring to St Peter's to sing and study under Palestrina. Following his release from St. Peter's he held a variety of prestigious posts in Rome including at the Spanish church of Santa Maria di Monserrato and the English College. In 1594 following the death of Palestrina he was appointed as composer to the Papal Chapel and held also during the first few years of the new century the coveted post of Maestro di Capella to that renowned (and very wealthy) patron of the arts Duke Giovanni Angelo Altemps.
His setting of the Salve Regina — the Marian antiphon sung at the end of Compline or Vespers in the period between the feasts of Pentecost and Advent is bi-choral. That is it's set for two choirs one consisting of high voices (sopranos and altos) the other of low voices (basses and tenor). Double-choir composition was common throughout Italy at the time but was particularly popular in the two wealthiest and most powerful Italian cities, Rome and Venice. From a musicologist's point of view it's an interesting setting of the Salve because in it Anerio contrasts the high voiced choir with the low, this is atypical of Roman bi-choral compositions of the period but would be far from surprising in music composed for one of the great Venetian establishments. Is it possible that this setting was written in support of a job application with one of the major churches of the Serene Republic?
Musically I find it lovely, it's a somewhat restrained yet very poignant and expressive setting in which Anerio makes use of sharpened thirds and the juxtaposition of major and minor to heighten the mood and the desired effect upon the listener. It's a very individual piece — neither Anerio nor anybody else ever wrote anything quite like it again. Enjoy :-).
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