A New Venetian Coronation 1595

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Gabrieli Consort & Players
Paul McCreesh

£12.00

MP3 Album also available from iTunes.

To access a wealth of information about this recording, please follow the links below.

Programme

Programme:

The Procession
Intrada Tertia / Sexta / Septima – Hans Leo Hassler (1601)
Trumpet Sonata No.333 – Cesare Bendinelli (1614)

The Mass
Toccata Secondo Tono – Giovanni Gabrieli (1593)
Introit
Arrival of the doge: Toccata 26 – Cesare Bendinelli (1614)
Intonazione primo tono – Giovanni Gabrieli
Kyrie à 5 – Andrea Gabrieli (1587)
Christe à 8 – Andrea Gabrieli (1587)
Kyrie à 12 – Andrea Gabrieli (1587)
Gloria à 16 – Andrea Gabrieli (1587)
Collect
Epistle
Gradual: Canzona [13] à 12 – Giovanni Gabrieli (1597)
Gospel
Intonazione Settimo tono – Andrea Gabrieli (1593)
Offertory: Deus qui beatum Marcum – Giovanni Gabrieli (1597)
Preface
Sanctus and Benedictus à 12 – Andrea Gabrieli (1587)
Elevation: Sarasinetta 2 – Cesare Bendinelli (1614)
Canzona [16] à 15 – Giovanni Gabrieli (1597)
Pater Noster
Agnus Dei
Intonazione quinto tono alla quarta bassa – Giovanni Gabrieli (1593)
Communion: O sacrum convivium à 5 – Andrea Gabrieli (1565)
Canzona [9] à 10 – Giovanni Gabrieli (1597)
Post communion prayer
Sonata la Leona – Cesario Gussago (1608)
Omnes gentes à 16 – Giovanni Gabrieli (1597)

 

Reviews

"…there are gains in the subtler riches and overall know-how: McCreesh’s feel for the shifting colours of polychoral music was always firm but he finds extra variety here with the greater use of solo voices – most memorably in Andrea’s O Sacrum Convivium…." The Gramophone, September 2012

"…It’s a marvellous achievement, incorporating the rapturous choral polyphony of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli interspersed with passages of organ and period-instrument arrangements of cornets, sackbuts and shawms. It’s never less than enthralling, especially the length opening "procession"."The Independent, 2 June 2012

"…This is a hugely charismatic and colourful coronation, and one of those recordings where it’s hard to stop inching up the volume control. McCreesh’s new take on his classic recording is a triumph and even more vivid than the first … Highly recommended to both first and second time buyers, and on track to inspire yet another generation…" Simon Heighes, International Record Review, July/August 2012

"…Even if you own the classic Virgin disc, this new version is a must-buy." Hugh Canning, The Sunday Times, 17 June 2012

"…It’s all delicious … It’s absolutely tremendous…" Simon Heighes, BBC Radio 3 CD Review, 9 June 2012

"…this is a marvellously handled recording conjuring up a ‘live’ event that is greatly aided by the opening bell-ringing and the ethereal spacious surround of the chanting. Musically the stars of the show are the works composed by the Gabrielis, uncle and son…" Performance – Five Stars; Recording – Five Stars BBC Music Magazine, September 2012

"…this is a fascinating and musically captivating aural journey to a city whose splendour was impressively illustrated by the splendour of its music…" Music Web International, 31 July 2012

"…The 50 seconds of solitary bell chimes that open the original now sounds downbeat incomparison with the eight-minute riot of festive pealing and anticipatory crowd hubbub which ushers in this remake. … Once inside … the distractions disappear. The occasional swish of incense dispersal or hand bell chimes are the only interior sound effects, enhancing the ceremonial atmosphere without impinging on the liturgical plainchant, florid organ voluntaries, majestic trumpet fanfares, opulent brass canzonas, and rich choral singing…" Graham Rogers, BBC Music Online, 8 June 2012

Acknowledgements

Paul McCreesh and Gabrieli are grateful for the collaboration and research of many of the musicians performing on this recording, including Adrian Bending, William Lyons, Jamie Savan and Jan Waterfield, and also to Peter Downey for his research on trumpet music. Furthermore we would like to reiterate our thanks to all those that assisted with the development of the original programme, including the late Elsie Arnold, Clifford Bartlett, Don Giulio Cattin, Francesco Facchin, Hugh Keyte, James O’Donnell and Timothy Roberts.

This recording has been made possible by the generous financial assistance of Richard Brown, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Gabrieli Consort & Players. We are also indebted to Mike Abrahams and Myra Murtagh for their design work for all Winged Lion recordings.

Gabrieli would like to extend their gratitude to Father Oliver Holt and the monastic community of Douai Abbey for welcoming us to the peaceful surroundings of the Abbey to make this recording.

 

Paul McCreesh

Interview

An audio version of this interview is available in the multimedia section.

Paul McCreesh is interviewed by Catherine Bott, presenter of BBC Radio 3’s Early Music Show.

Catherine Bott: I’d like to begin by taking you back to your early years and to ask when you first heard music by Giovanni or Andrea Gabrieli, and what effect it had on you.

Paul McCreesh: It would have been when I was at University. As with most young musicians, for many years I only knew the music that I played – ie the great symphonic repertoire. As a music student at the University of Manchester, one of the first ‘set works’ was Monteverdi’s Orfeo. The colours of the old instruments and the different aesthetics of the music, of which I knew virtually nothing, opened my ears to an entirely new sound world. I immediately went on to discover more of this repertoire, including music by both of the Gabrielis, although at this time (the late 1970s) very few of these recordings would have been on period instruments. I do remember Andrew Parrott releasing a recording of music by Giovanni Gabrieli with the London Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble a few years later: hearing that music for the first time on old instruments, played really rather well, was quite a revelation.

What was it that particularly gripped you about this music?

I suspect that for me, as with many people, a great deal of the attraction lay in Venice herself – indeed, many early recordings of this repertoire were issued under titles such as The Glories of Venice. The grandeur of those recordings painted a romanticised picture of Venice, all bronzed mosaics, re-echoing cupolas and the sheer opulence of the sumptuous architecture. But why not?
Venice has always been a city of myths: the impossible dream city, built on water, espoused to the Virgin Mary and equally inviolate in her unconquered state. Even in the Gabrielis’ time these tales were intrinsically linked with this fantastical city. You cannot avoid thinking of Venice other than in glorious technicolour – burgundies, mustards, ochres and brilliant azures. Those early brass recordings revelled in all of this, perhaps over-grandly or even crudely, but impressively nonetheless.

When did you decide you were going to start a group and at what stage did you decide to call it the Gabrieli Consort & Players?

I established the ensemble in 1982, as I left University, with a tour of the cathedrals of the north of England. At that time, I was particularly interested in older music and the Gabrielis’ music embodied the beauty and exoticism of all that I loved about this repertoire; maybe the very flamboyance of this music was also a good mirror of my personality at that time. I very much wanted to establish a group that was at once a vocal and instrumental ensemble: the interplay between voices and instruments that is the hallmark of Venetian music has become an important part of my philosophy, so the Gabrieli name has served incredibly well as an identity for the ensemble, whatever the repertoire.

When you started Gabrieli there were several groups named after composers – Gardiner had the Monteverdi Choir, Norrington had the Schütz Choir – in many ways, this was the obvious formula for ensemble names. But from the first time that I saw you and the Gabrieli Consort & Players in action, there was a blazing commitment from you to this music: your understanding and love of the repertoire was unmistakable.

I’m very touched that you comment on my love of the music: that is still there, very much so. I believe that certainly part of my motivation to conduct, and perhaps the most important part of my talent, is a simple generic love of music from all ages. When starting a new ensemble, you have to believe that you have something to say and – like every 20-something year old conductor – that you can do it better than others. As I’ve got older, I’ve learnt that I can’t necessarily always do it ‘better’ (at least not in everyone’s eyes!) but I can certainly do it differently, provided that I feel I have something to say about the music. I think
I’m blessed with a very strong response to music, which is crucial for a conductor. Let’s talk about your early performances of A Venetian Coronation. How did the project come into being? My interest in liturgical reconstructions stemmed not from any sort of latent desire to enter the priesthood, but rather from my constant concern with programme planning – alas, that’s an obsession that still keeps me awake at night. Careful programming has always been something of a hallmark for the ensemble, but in all honesty it’s something of an agony for me; I spend literally hundreds of hours thinking about how to put music together. When, as in early or vocal repertoire, you have an abundance of short pieces of music, the conundrum of how to structure a programme is even greater. The liturgy itself, and the way it has developed over many centuries, is an interesting and beautiful art form: to employ the structure of the liturgy immediately lends the programme a natural shape and form. It puts the music in a wholly convincing historical and emotional context and lifts the music to another level, so that both polyphony and plainchant shine more brightly in the context of the ebb and the flow of the liturgical service.

How much do we know about the music that was performed at this Coronation? Is there a great deal of historical documentation on the subject or have you had to rely on educated guesses to make musical choices?

Oh, it’s completely speculative! We have no idea exactly what was performed on that April morning in 1595, but of course the real joy of the project is to create something. We have the form of the service, we have the music of the period and we have to use imagination to put the two together coherently, in a way that makes sense both structurally and musically. You might be amused to know that the order that the music appeared on in the original CD was not the order that I had planned (as has happened many times in my life since). That is part of the reason why I want to revisit this project now, 25 years on: even now, I will do it in a slightly different way.

Listening to the original CD earlier this week, I was very struck by the wonderful use that you make of different spaces and acoustics. The atmospheric opening with 50 seconds of bells immediately transports the listener...

Yes, and whilst I think we were the first to do that, it’s an idea that has often been stolen since! It’s an effective but simple way of setting the scene and of drawing the listener in; one thing you can be certain of in any church service is that it doesn’t start with a blazing motet and I wanted to reflect that. This gradual introduction (a simple organ intonation follows the chiming of the bells) reflects both the preparations for the liturgical celebration in the Basilica and the culmination of the procession, as it elaborately wends its way across Piazza San Marco and into the Basilica. For this new recording I suspect we will take this idea even further, painting a yet more elaborate sound picture during the procession and using the more ambient background of a fuller church. Controversial, maybe, but I think it’s good to continue experimenting.

Were you conscious at the time that you were doing something really quite bold and daring?

The period in the late 1980s when I began working on this project remains one of very few times that I’ve ever really sat down to serious scholarly research – I spent a great deal of time in Venice’s libraries (very little of the pertinent information had been published at that time) and in discussion with scholars of the period. Obviously, I had no idea that this recording would enjoy such success and I think it’s important to remember that whilst the recording has been very popular, it is also one of the most scholarly recordings that’s ever been made. That rather gives the lie to the idea that you can only be one thing or the other. In fact, looking back over 30 years of Gabrieli, I think it’s the creative tension between intellectual pursuit and scholarship on the one hand, and my desire to be a very free and expressive musician on the other, that is at the heart of my interpretations.

Few people appreciate that San Marco is not the grand, spacious ‘film set’ of a cathedral that one might expect, but rather a series of chambers. Clearly that has a bearing on music written for that building.

Absolutely: the music of San Marco is essentially chamber music that was mainly intended for the delight of the Doge and his invited guests, seated in the choir area. Of course there is grandeur in the music but the relative delicacy of cornetts, sackbuts and old violins – as opposed to a modern symphonic brass ensemble – demands a subtler approach, which I hope comes across on the recording.

So these liturgical services were for the Doge, not the common people, and the music, similarly, was concentrated at one small part of that enormous building?

I suspect it was a very closed world. There is a school of thought that the music and art of 16th and 17th century religion was an attempt to be more inclusive, to bring the ‘great unwashed’ to God, but I suspect that’s probably optimistic religious mythology. The Reformation would not have happened had religion not been almost the exclusive preserve of a very small, educated group of people. My guess is that, even in a relatively egalitarian city such as Venice, the complexities of this sort of religious worship would only have had real meaning for the upper echelons of society.

I have loved reading the personnel listed on your first recording: there are some people who are sadly no longer with us, but by and large it is full of recognizable names – artists who were at the start of their careers then.

Inevitably groups such as Gabrieli change and develop over the years and I am pleased that we have always had a very strong track record for developing new talent. It is wonderful to look back at the names on that disc, which include soloists that I work with frequently, such as Christopher Purves, Paul Agnew, Charles Daniels and Peter Harvey and other renowned musicians, such as Angus Smith (a founder member of the Orlando Consort), David Hurley (now a King’s Singer of some 20 years), James O’Donnell (Organist at Westminster Abbey), Peter Nardone (recently appointed Organist at Worcester Cathedral)... the list goes on! We all started our careers together, very much as equals, and I have learnt a great deal from these and many other colleagues.

How many of the old guard from the original recording have returned to the scene of the crime?

A few! I’m particularly pleased that we have the same principal cornettist on both discs, Jeremy West, and also Sue Addison, Nick Perry, Steve Saunders and Charles Pott, all wonderful musicians who have worked with Gabrieli over many years. In 1989, when we recorded this for the first time, there were barely a dozen excellent cornett and sackbut players in the country. Our first recording of A Venetian Coronation was something of a watershed in that it very much increased interest in these early instruments: today in the UK alone there are 20 or 30 good sackbut players and a host of young players of extraordinary talent coming through the cornett world. The resurgence of interest in these instruments is due in no small part to the wonderful teaching of Gabrieli musicians such as Jeremy West and Sue Addison. I should also add that it’s a great joy that Nick Parker, the producer of the original disc, will be at the helm for this recording too.

What sort of changes should we expect in your performance, when compared to the early recording?

This programme has evolved over the years that we’ve performed it and we’ve changed our performance in many ways, particularly with regard to scoring, tempo relationships and pitch. Most obviously, three of the movements will be done at substantially different pitches: we now have a much greater understanding of the system of clef notation known as chiavette, which means that music in certain sets of clefs has to be transposed down. Maybe I should have noticed this when I was in my 20s, but I think it only goes to show how new this territory was! In addition, the complex relationship between duple and triple time is still widely discussed by scholars. Listeners will notice a variety of tempi, fast and slow, in triple time sections. It’s a very complicated topic, and it is both frustrating and refreshing that there are questions such as this in old music where clear answersremain elusive. Two of the motets are also performed with solo voices, rather than chorally. Over the years I have come to believe that one to a part singing was very common in major cathedrals: certainly Andrea Gabrieli’s magical communion motet O Sacrum Convivium gains a marvellous intimacy performed in this way. Likewise, Giovanni Gabrieli’s Deus qui beatum Marcum has a very different colour when performed by two solo voices accompanied by eight sackbuts. We have changed some of the organ music and, more generally, some of the pacing is different. We are including shawm music for the first time – many of the contemporary woodcuts show shawm players in the procession – and we have also made changes to the trumpet music. It is always refreshing to come back to a programme after a break of a few years as it allows new ideas to come to the surface. Overall, I hope that the recording will have a very different flavour – it should be an interesting re-take on the same idea and it certainly feels quite different to us as performers when we listen back to that early recording. After all, people play Beethoven symphonies time and time again!

How would you like this new re-take on your wonderful Venetian Coronation recording, almost a quarter of a century on, to be greeted?

I hope that people will welcome this recording remembering what an imaginative and ground-breaking project it was all those years ago. Like all recordings, it marked a particular moment in time but I trust that, even now, it stands out as an interesting concept. I think everyone’s understanding of this repertoire has developed over the last quarter century, and so has the playing.
One particular challenge of this recording will be for us as performers to recapture the energy and surprise of our first performances of this music.

So has your appreciation of the Gabrielis’ music changed?

I still think they are both extraordinary composers. Andrea’s music is often staid and more sober, but immensely beautiful. Giovanni’s music is generally underestimated because he did not lead the history of music into a new area of development, but he was without doubt one of the great renaissance polyphonists and nobody went further than him in instrumental music for a very, very long time. Indeed, there is no comparable polychoral music from the period, perhaps with the exception of Schütz, who left his own tribute ‘At Gabrielius, Dij immortales, quantus vir’ – ‘but Gabrieli, immortal Gods, what a man!’

From which I infer that 30 years on, you are still glad that you chose to name your ensemble the Gabrieli Consort & Players?

Indeed, I am! I’ve always been interested in polychorality – or the physicality of space within music making. I’m sure 25 years ago I would never have dreamt that, in the same season as making this recording, I would have released a recording of Berlioz’s Grande Messe des Morts! There are few things more amazing than Berlioz’s use of four brass bands and massed drums in what is perhaps one of the most stupendous climaxes in music, but this effect is foreshadowed centuries earlier in Andrea Gabrieli’s sublime 12 part Kyrie. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve performed this work in churches and cathedrals all over the world, but that wonderful moment when all 12 parts enter, after such a leisurely polyphonic working out, still sends a tingle down my spine every time.

Biographies

Gabrieli Consort & Players

Founded by Paul McCreesh in 1982, Gabrieli Consort & Players are world-renowned interpreters of great choral and instrumental repertoire, spanning from the renaissance to the present day. Their invigorating performances encompass major works from the oratorio tradition, virtuosic a cappella programmes and mould-breaking reconstructions of music for historical events. Gabrieli are acclaimed for their performances of Handel oratorios and Bach Passions and their past recordings with Deutsche Grammophon have garnered numerous international awards.

Gabrieli are regular visitors to the world's most prestigious concert halls . They are associated artists of the Wratislavia Cantans Festival in Wrocław and have embarked on an exciting partnership with the city's foremost choir, the acclaimed Wrocław Philharmonic Choir, with whom they collaborate on international touring.

Gabrieli are increasingly committed to working with young musicians. In October 2010, the Gabrieli Young Singers' Scheme was launched, establishing partnerships with four leading youth choirs, giving young singers the opportunity to train and perform with Gabrieli's professional musicians. The next recording in this oratorio series will bring this scheme to the recording studio, as members of each choir join Gabrieli and the Wroclaw Philharmonic Choir for a recording of Mendelssohn's majestic oratorio, Elijah.

Paul McCreesh

Paul McCreesh has established himself at the highest levels in both the period instrument and modern orchestral fields and is recognised for his authoritative and innovative performances on the concert platform and in the opera house. Together with the Gabrieli Consort & Players, of which he is the founder and Artistic Director, he has performed in major concert halls and festivals across the world and built a large and distinguished discography for Deutsche Grammophon.

McCreesh works regularly with major orchestras and choirs, and the larger choral repertoire, such as Britten's War Requiem, Brahms' German Requiem and Haydn's The Creation and The Seasons, feature increasingly in his work. He has established a strong reputation in the field of opera conducting productions of Handel, Gluck and Mozart at leading European opera houses.

McCreesh is passionate about working with young musicians and enjoys established collaborations with Chetham's School of Music and many youth orchestras and choirs, both in the UK and internationally. He has been Artistic Director of the Wratislavia Cantans Festival since 2006 and has been Director of Brinkburn Music (in Northumberland, UK) for many years.

Multimedia

Paul McCreesh in conversation with Catherine Bott about re-recording A Venetian Coronation.

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© TallWall Media

Photo of the Gabrieli Consort during the recording of A New Venetian Coronationat Douai Abbey
© Ash Mills