Sensual Spin On 17th Century Vespers

Faye Newton, Clare Wilkinson, the Gonzaga Band and four period instruments combine to thrill with Italian parish Vespers

Composer: Banchieri, Tarditi, Cima, Finetti, Piccinini, Petrobelli, Frescobaldi, Monferrato, Crotti, Sances, Cazzati
Repertoire:  Italian Baroque chamber music
Artists: Faye Newton (sop), Clare Wilkinson (mz), The Gonzaga Band
Rating:  4/5
Genre: Chamber/Vocal
Label:  Chandos CHAN 0782

The Music: Two singers and four period instrumentalists reconstruct Vespers for Italian parishes, unable, in 1613, to afford lavish choral works by Monteverdi and Co. Secular solo instrumental items alternate with the liturgy including five psalms and the Magnificat.

The Performance: Soprano Faye Newton and mezzo Clare Wilkinson duet intimately in a sensuous, three-time Ave Maria to redden the clergy’s faces. Their words aren’t so clear, but maybe that’s not important. Lutenist Richard Sweeney adopts a progressive nail plucking technique in the fast section of Frescobaldi’s Canzon and keyboardist Steven Devine is effortlessly light-fingered in the same composer’s fugal Capriccio. Cornettist Jamie Savan cuts the air thrillingly in Cima’s Sonata for Cornett which concludes with an outrageous sequence of chromatic rising scales. One wonders how the instrument could ever have become obsolete.

The Verdict: Hot stuff at the local parish. The idea of presenting music designed to attract 17th century congregations at a local level is strong. The execution, despite modest diction, is excellent.

Want More? The Gonzaga Band performs a similar repertoire but without the context of a church service on Sacred Garland (Chandos CHAN 0761).