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A New Venetian Coronation, 1595Gabrieli Consort & Players
The Gabrieli Consort and Players return to the programme that put them on the musical map when it was originally recorded and released in 1990: A Venetian Coronation 1595 is a musical re-creation evoking the grand pageantry of the Coronation Mass for Venetian Doge Marino Grimani. His love of ceremony and state festivals fuelled an extraordinary musical bounty during his reign and formed the background to the musical riches of the period, especially to the works of Giovanni Gabrieli. With cornetts, sackbuts and an all-male consort, Paul McCreesh fully exploits the dazzling polyphony of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli’s music and captivates the audience in a theatrical and ceremonious performance.
Two decades later, the Gabrieli's New Venetian Coronation takes advantage of huge developments in early instruments, performance techniques and research into the pieces that were on the original (as well as advances in recording techniques).
This disc follows on from two critically lauded releases with Signum – Berlioz's Grande Messe des Morts (BBC Music Magazine Award winner – Technical Excellence) and A Song of Farewell (5 Stars – Classic FM Magazine, Double 5 stars – BBC Music Magazine).
What people are saying
"Even if you own the classic Virgin disc, this new version is a must-buy." The Sunday Times
"never less than enthralling" The Independent
"McCreesh's new take on his classic recording is a triumph … Highly recommended to both first- and second-time buyers, and on track to inspire yet another generation." Recommended Recording, International Record Review
Gabrieli Consort & Players
Release date: 4th Jun 2012
Order code: SIGCD287
|1.||the procession: bells intrada tertia / sexta / septima, trumpet sonata no. 333||Hans Leo Hassler, Cesare Bendinelli||8.22|
|2.||toccata secondo tono||Giovanni Gabrieli||2.20|
|4.||arrival of the doge: toccata 26||Cesare Bendinelli||1.01|
|5.||intonazione primo tono||Giovanni Gabrieli||0.30|
|6.||kyrie à 5||Andrea Gabrieli||1.59|
|7.||christe à 8||Andrea Gabrieli||2.13|
|8.||kyrie à 12||Andrea Gabrieli||3.29|
|9.||gloria à 16||Andrea Gabrieli||5.02|
|12.||gradual: canzona  à 12||Giovanni Gabrieli||2.48|
|14.||intonazione settimo ton||Andrea Gabrieli||1.14|
|15.||offertory: deus qui beatum marcum à 10||Giovanni Gabrieli||2.51|
|17.||sanctus & benedictus à 12||Andrea Gabrieli||3.40|
|18.||elevation: sarasinetta 2||Cesare Bendinelli||1.01|
|19.||canzona  à 15||Giovanni Gabrieli||4.34|
|22.||intonazione quinto tono alla quarta bassa||Giovanni Gabrieli||0.42|
|23.||communion: o sacrum convivium à 5||Andrea Gabrieli||3.59|
|24.||canzona  à 10||Giovanni Gabrieli||4.23|
|25.||post communion prayer||n/a||1.58|
|26.||sonata la leona||Cesario Gussago||2.15|
|27.||omnes gentes à 16||Giovanni Gabrieli||4.28|
Paul McCreesh first celebrated this particular Venetian Coronation back in 1990, and has now revisited the occasion for his own independent label, Winged Lion. What makes McCreesh’s historico-musical reconstructions so appealing is their sense of context. It is one thing to have recordings of works by the Gabrielis and their contemporaries, quite something else to hear them arise from within the settings for which they were originally written. So, after several minutes of tolling bells, crowd noise, fanfares and plainchant, the long-anticipated advent of Andrea Gabrieli’s five-part Kyrie comes as a revelation to the ears: sonorous, profound, and deeply satisfying. It is quite probable that the listener will not want this immersive experience every time – the processionals and other ceremonial nuggets can easily be skipped – but McCreesh’s theatrical approach reminds us that such sacred music was as much about staging a drama as the solemnity of the rite.
Mark Walker, Classical Ear
Most Memorable Albums of the Year
... The Gabrieli Consort revisited San Marco with a new version of A Venetian Coronation and delivered a spine-chilling rendition of Mendelssohn's Elijah.
The Independent on Sunday, Anna Picard
It is over 20 years since Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort and Players made their award-winning CD, A Venetian Coronation, 1595. Now McCreesh implements some new thoughts about his original reconstruction of a late 16th-century Coronation Mass at St Mark's Basilica. There is much splendid music here and all is performed with refined attention to the smallest detail and with affective fervour.
Early Music Today, Claudine Nightingale
In the late 1980s Paul McCreesh recorded his first Venetian Coronation on Virgin Classics. Since then over the years he has continued to refine and research the idea of liturgical reconstruction, focusing specifically on this same coronation service, that of the Doge Marino Grimani on the morning of the 27th of April 1595. The first recording was quite innovative and caused a bit of a stir among the period instrument movement, and in fact was imitated numerous times over the next 20 years. Admittedly there was little to go on in terms of content; a lot of speculation was at play then as well as now. And in fact, the program for this new recording is almost exactly the same as in the Virgin issue.
So why do it again? Well, McCreesh contends that he has learned a lot since then involving pitch accuracy, tuning, rhythmical issues, number of performers to a part, and even instrumentation (shawms are used for the first time here). He also seems to have revised his polychoral spacing techniques, favoring a sound that is perhaps more intimate than the first, under the idea that the Basilica of St. Mark’s is essentially a “chamber” church that does not allow the vast and expansive types of sounds made so popular by those recordings of Biggs et al, or the early “Festival in Brass” records from Columbia.
In truth this remake is mostly superior to the original. Instead of the tentative and almost apologetic bells that open the first version we get placed in the hubbub of St. Mark’s square complete with crowd noises, fireworks, and outdoor bands prior to entering the cathedral (actually recorded at Douai Abbey in Berkshire, England). Once inside the extraneous noises are dispensed with and the mass proper takes over. Sometimes I think that McCreesh could use a bit more rhythmical vibrancy in some of the alternating duple and triple time passages, and the first version is also a little more upbeat in certain respects; but the sound is deeper and more vibrant here (even though the lack of surround seems really stupid to me on a recording that asks for it as the music of Gabrieli in Venice does) and many of the players who performed on the first appear here also, undoubtedly more secure in their skills than 25 years ago.
Do you need this one if you have the last? Probably not, as the changes here might not be enough to warrant the extra expense, and even the updated “scholarship” on this recording doesn’t mean that it is correct. If you don’t have the old one the new will certainly be ear opening. I’ve now got both, and probably won’t hold on to the old one.
Audiophile Audition, Steven Ritter
Twenty-five years after A Venetian Coronation propelled the Gabrieli Consort to fame. Paul McCreesh offers a new reconstruction of the same event. This is a more cinematic affair, frosted with ambient sound as the bells ring out from St Mark's Basilica. Shawms join the arsenal of natural brass. Toccatas and intonazione from four organs describe the gilded chapels, while the mass is sung with solo voices and a suave consort of cornetts and sackbutts. Pitch perfect.
The Independent on Sunday, Anna Picard
“You cannot avoid thinking of Venice other than in glorious technicolour - burgundies, mustards, ochres and brilliant azures.”
Thus Paul McCreesh in an illuminating interview with Catherine Bott that forms part of the booklet for this new release.
How many collectors acquired, as I did, McCreesh’s 1989 Virgin Classics disc, A New Venetian Coronation, 1595? That was a ground-breaking recording in that, so far as I know, it was one of the first - if notthefirst - to present pre-classical sacred music in the format of a speculative liturgical reconstruction. The intention was to present the music as it might have been done at the Coronation of Doge Marino Grimani (1532-1605) in St Mark’s basilica on 27 April 1595. Paul McCreesh readily admits that his reconstruction is “completely speculative” - there are no records that show exactly what form the order of service took. McCreesh went on to make several more such discs, among which my own favourite is the marvellous Lutheran Mass for Christmas Morning. The Venetian Coronation programme has remained in the Gabrieli’s repertoire over the years and, over time, has been adapted and modified. Now, to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Gabrieli’s, which he founded in 1982, McCreesh has set down on disc his current version of the programme.
In 1595 Giovanni Gabrieli was one of the organists at St Mark’s and McCreesh makes his music and that of his uncle, Andrea Gabrieli - a former organist at the basilica - the backbone of his programme. In many ways the musical content remains the same as in 1989 and in the track listing I’ve marked with an asterisk the pieces that are common to both discs. However, even where the music is the same there are some important differences. For example, Giovanni Gabrieli’sDeus qui Beatum Marcum à10 was performed chorally - or at least by a small consort of voices - in 1989. For the 2012 incarnation McCreesh uses a pair of solo falsettists, accompanied by a wonderfully gruff octet of sackbuts. The piece takes on an entirely different character: in 1989 we heard it as a forthright, public piece; in 2012 it sounds much more intimate. That’s even more the case with Andrea Gabrieli’s O sacrum convivium à 5. The consort version heard in 1989 is lovely but now it’s sung by five solo voices and this way of performing the piece imparts a haunting intimacy to it. McCreesh makes the telling point to Catherine Bott that the Coronation Mass itself was probably quite a closed affair, just for the top people in Venetian society, although the crowd at least got to see an elaborate pre-Mss procession through the streets. The contrast with Lutheran Germany, where the congregational hymns were so important in worship and, as such, became a fantastic feature ofLutheran Mass for Christmas Morning, is telling.
Mention of the pre-Mass procession brings me to the biggest change from the 1989 CD. That began with a brief track (0:50) in which bells were heard. The opening to the 2012 production is much more elaborate. We hear the bells, to be sure, but during the first track, which lasts 8:20, we hear bells more than once. Moreover there are several pieces of processional music and everything is heard against a busy background of street noises, including the chatter of people and even fireworks. A vivid aural picture is created of the Doge’s procession making its way to St. Mark’s basilica through excited, thronged streets. Some may think it’s contrived: I think it’s great!
The music on the disc is a mixture of vocal pieces composed by the Gabrieli’s, chant, trumpet fanfares and short organ pieces. The standard of performance is tremendously high. The Kyrie, for example, comprises three movements by Andrea Gabrieli, all requiring different forces. All three pieces have a solemn grandeur, not least the first Kyrie for solo high tenor and sackbuts. Andrea Gabrieli’s Gloria à 16 is majestic. The Venetians thought nothing of replacing parts of the mass with music for better effect and so, for instance, in this reconstruction the chanting of the Gradual gives way to a rather splendid 12-part instrumental canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli. His uncle’s music furnishes the Sanctus and Benedictus. The music for this is in twelve parts and it’s magnificent and complex. Here, it’s thrillingly recorded as well as thrillingly performed and the listener is given a real sense of the use of spatial effects. Giovanni Gabrieli has the last word: his Omnes gentesà16 provides a richly festive conclusion to the liturgy - both the music and the performance of it are full of exuberance and vitality.
Nicholas Parker, who produced the 1989 recording in Brinkburn Priory, Northumberland does the honours for this recording also. He and engineer Neil Hutchinson have done a superb job in figuratively transporting Douai Abbey to the Piazza San Marco. The sound is splendid, as is the documentation. This project offers an exhilarating and stimulating way to experience the musical glories of Renaissance Venice but it’s far from a Disney-fication of the music. The performances here are the product of considerable scholarship. However, the scholarship is worn lightly. There’s a tremendous vitality and joyfulness to the proceedings. Though a fair bit of music is reprised from the 1989 recording it’s well worth the duplication to hear Paul McCreesh’s current take on the music; there are differences.
Buy this disc and you’ll experience Renaissance Venice in the aural equivalent of “glorious technicolour”.
Musicweb International, John Quinn
When it comes to recorded liturgical reconstructions, I have yet to hear one more replete with evocative extra-musical sounds of the occasion than Paul McCreesh's A New Venetian Coronation 1595. Revisiting the programme that first shot the Gabrieli Consort to fame, McCreesh adds chattering crowds, bells, lapping lagoon water, drums, loud winds and the-Lord-knows-what to set the scene for a truly sumptuous musical experience in which the acoustics of Douai Abbey suggest San Marco without muddying the clarity of a sequence of exceptional performances. I admired the original disc, but this one is guaranteed to supplant it in the hearts of all true Veneziaphiles.
Choir & Organ, Rebecca Tavener
Andrew McGregor [AM]: ...but first we’re going to travel to Venice at the end of the 16th and start of the 17th centuries. I played you Robert Hollingworth’s recent recording of the ‘1612 Italian Vespers’ with I Fagiolini performing a reconstructed 28- voice Magnificat by Giovanni Gabrieli; that was when it first came out. They are bringing it to the Proms this week, but before we hear some Monteverdi from that recording, I thought we could revisit Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort & Players in their ‘A New Venetian Coronation, 1595’. You might know the first one: their pioneering reconstruction on record of a late 16th century Coronation Mass at St. Mark’s in Venice. That was made almost a quarter of a century ago. It’s won awards and it became one of the Gabrieli’s most successful programmes in concert. So they recently reappraised it in the light of everything they’ve learned since, in the latest scholarship on pitch and performance practice. On CD Review, Simon Hayes absolutely loved it in this more vivid recording. Inspiration for the next generation of singers and players, he thought. And here’s the Christe from the Mass by Andrea Gabrieli, that’s the heart of the disc, leading into the final Kyrie.
AM: Doesn’t that Kyrie grow beautifully? The opening of the Mass by Andrea Gabrieli, that’s the centre piece of the Gabrieli Consort & Players’ ‘New Venetian Coronation’, as Paul McCreesh revisits their famous early recording from around a quarter of a century ago. The new one is marvellous; a single CD on the Gabrieli’s Winged Lion label from Signum Classics and the old one is still in the catalogue.
BBC Radio 3, CD Review, Andrew McGregor
It is over 20 years since Paul McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort and Players made their award-winning CD, A Venetian Coronation, 1595. Now McCreesh implements some new thoughts about his original reconstruction of a late sixteenth-century Coronation Mass at St. Mark's Basilica. As before, the atmosphere is imaginatively evoked with bells, wonderfully effective spatial effects and throughout a lively sense of occasion whose spirit is resonantly captured in the beautiful acoustic of Douai Abbey, Berkshire. Most of the music is by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, uncle and nephew, respectively, but among a handful of other composers represented is Hans Leo Hassler, one-time student of Andrea in Venice. There is much splendid music here - the joyful Canzona a 12 (track 12) by Giovanni at once springs to mind and all is performed with refined attention to the smallest detail and with affective fervour.
Early Music Today
This is a remake of the commercially and critically successful Venetian Coronation, released in 1990. The Lion of St Mark with La Serenissima in the background which greeted our eyes on the original Virgin Classics cover is replaced by plain ice-white - how cool. The main menu remains: the mass by Andrea Gabrieli and vocal and instrumental pieces by Giovanni, whilst some of the side dishes have been changed. The big new idea of the original recording was the representation of a complete event, from introductory bells to the end of mass, complete with clinking of thurible chains. In this version, this is taken one step further by keeping a continuous (though changing) acoustic throughout the disc. We are taken on a seamless journey through the event portrayed, during which we always have a clear sense of our bearings. We start with the awe-inspiring bells of the campanile resounding across a crowded St Mark's square. We are then entertained by a shawm band, whose articulation and phrasing has learnt everything it can from the Morse code, in the way pioneered by reenactments of the 1970s, hardly helped by the otherwise excellent idea of the dry outdoor acoustic. Relieved by the chaotic poppings of firecrackers (which we are all wired to respond to with excitement and expectation) we progress, we are to assume, towards the seat of temporal power, the Doge's Palace, announced by an impressive trumpet fanfare.
Then under the bronze horses into the seat of spiritual power, the basilica, to be greeted by hallowed acoustic, small tinklings and a sudden and majestic organ toccata. Comparisons with the 1990 recording are inevitable, and it is interesting to hear how good that recording was. The performances here have an extra feel of certainty and confidence - including the confidence not to be heard necessarily as an individual (singer) but to allow the ensemble and entire shape to carry the drama. The large scale pieces by Giovanni add their own thrill. The Canzona a 10 dazzles: its two top lines, written idiomatically for violins, are taken as before by violin and cornett - the grass-hopper doing battle with a rope of pearls. The concluding Omnes gentes a 16 provides a massive finale, employing the famous Monteverdi instruction "con piu forza che si puo" to the full. The result truly befits a coronation at arguably the artistic peak in the history of Venice. Make sure to set the time aside to hear this wonderful performance - or rather event - in one sitting.
Early Music Review, Stephen Cassidy
In 1990 the Gabrieli Consort and Players released a spectacular - and spectacularly successful - CD. It recreated a sequence of music as it might have been heard on the occasion of the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani at the end of the sixteenth century. A Venetian Coronation 1595 originally appeared on Virgin Veritas 91110. That recording - which won the Gramophone early music award for that year - is currently available on Virgin Classics Special Import 59006. In many people's eyes it gave a good overall introduction to the consort music of uncle and nephew Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, who both served as organists at St. Marks in Venice.
This year (2012) Paul McCreesh, the Gabrieli Consort and Players' conductor, felt it useful to repeat yet update the experience. To quote from their website it is time to 'look at the historical and instrumental developments since the original recording'. In the first place, it's hard to believe that that first 'Venetian Coronation' CD was McCreesh and the Consort and Players' actual first CD; they're now so well established and respected. As a concept - the historically-informed recreation - and execution (brass, keyboards and single violin) it was a significant achievement. It’s probably still a favourite in the CD collection of many an ('early') music lover.
For 'A New Venetian Coronation 1595' McCreesh celebrates the advances made since 1990 in scholarship and performance practice. One has to suppose, furthermore, that such a reprise is more likely almost 25 years on to be taken up and celebrated without fuss by enthusiasts: they're now more demanding in and of such repertoire. 'A New Venetian Coronation 1595' represents an excellent hour and ten minutes' worth of delightful music played with great style. It's also sufficiently distinct from the earlier CD to be worth buying in its own right.
Sources have been revisited and their understanding deepened by McCreesh and co. Technology - in use and restoration of instruments and in recording and editing - has played a large part too in producing a collection of two and a half dozen or so beautifully-played works. This time their innate power to move and inspire has taken precedence over effect and impact. The intricacies of Giovanni Gabrieli's lovely Canzona a 10 [tr.24], for instance, are gentler in tone and articulation than anything on the earlier collection. The works to be heard are not identical on each CD. McCreesh seems to have less to prove. We are more used to this music now. McCreesh is offering it to us with no less seriousness and sense of occasion. Surely we hear it now more nearly as it would have been heard by those celebrating the coronation in 1595.
The two CDs last about the same time, though this later one has more actual pieces. You will be struck immediately by the wider expressiveness, greater closeness with the spirit of the music. Listen to the melancholy - even the Doge is mortal? - harmonies of the poignant Canzona a 15 [tr.19] also by Giovanni. Each phrase is lovingly conjured up from the lagoon and left to dissipate there once it's been heard. It's one of the longer pieces at four and a half minutes. The integrity and familiarity which McCreesh brings to the enterprise ensures that this no disjointed experience. This is accomplished even though choral works, plainchant, instrumental and ensemble pieces come in sequence.
The splendour and glory of the climax, starting with the dignity of Andrea Gabrieli's Communion: O sacrum convivium a 5 [tr.23], through Gussago's Sonata La Leona [tr.26] and Giovanni Gabrieli's Omnes Gentes [tr.27] are stunning and uplifting. This is achieved without being empty or over rhetorical.
Nicholas Perry, cornett, sackbut and serpent player for the Gabrielis, uses the same treble cornett that he used in the original recording. He had stopped using it between 1990 and now; it had begun to rot. Yet he has re-varnished it and got it back into playable condition again. A group of Italian instruments which played well despite continuing apparent inconsistencies in design was copied and used for this recording.
Indeed, McCreesh describes advances in mouthpieces made with the advantage that they produce a sound closer to that of a true cornett and less like a 'bad tenor trombone'. It's obvious that McCreesh and his forces have had the luxury of being able to experiment more than perhaps they did nearly a quarter of a century ago. An example can be heard in the use of the tenor cornett as a substitute for the alto sackbut.
Trumpet fanfares and toccatas were researched by Peter Downey with Paul McCreesh. A second copy of Cesare Bendinelli's 'Trumpet Method' at the Austrian National Library in Vienna reinforces our appreciation of just how influential Bendinelli was. It's also been possible to cross-check manuscripts. Sources previously thought destroyed during World War II now explain how trumpets and drums were played during their introduction into music for the forty years after the date of the coronation. This is another example of authenticity augmented. At the same time more persuasive and pleasing colours and textures emerge.
Collectors of music by these composers will not want to add 'A New Venetian Coronation' for the sake of filling out their shelves. Those who are curious about such events in Venetian history, who maintain even a passing interest in almost any area of 'early' music, and certainly who bought and/or enjoyed the original CD should not hesitate to get this later disc. This is music-making of the highest order.
The acoustic is good, clear and resonant. Though it's not that of San Marco, which is a pity. In the first track or so, to the bells and music are added 'atmospheric' ambient sounds. A simple yet nicely-produced booklet is bound into the hardback and embossed container which carries the CD. It holds a mass of useful background on the actual ducal event, its significance and the musicians' approach to this - and the earlier - recreation. It's hard to imagine anyone remaining unmoved or not uplifted by this music.
Musicweb International, Mark Sealey
It is now 30 years since Paul McCreesh established the acclaimed Gabrieli Consort, and it is 23 years since he recorded his award-winning first attempt to reconstruct the Coronation Mass of Doge Marino Grimani originally held in Saint Mark's, Venice in 1595. Some of the musicians have survived from the first recording (such as the principal cornettist Jeremy West), and the original producer, Nicholas Parker, is also in control here. There are, though, changes to the music - some organ and trumpet pieces have been replaced, and two of the motets (O sacrum convivium and Deus qui beatum Marcum) are now sung by solo voices rather than a choir.
The big problem is that we do not know what music was actually performed at the ceremony. Given that, it does seem rather odd to exclude the music of Baldassare Donato, who we do at lease know was maestro di cappella at St Mark's at the time. Even so, this is a marvelously 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: Andrea's Kyrie setting has an impressively sombre interior glow; his magical chord changes in O sacrum convivium are perfectly displayed here; and Giovanni's Omnes gentes ends the show in magisterial form (if with slightly squeezy-boxy phrasing). For further delights do not miss the very nifty cornetto playing on track 24 and the organ duet on track 26.
Recording and Performance -
BBC Music Magazine, Anthony Pryer
'A Venetian Coronation' (Virgin, 5/90), a re-creation of the music for the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani in 1595, was Paul McCreesh's breakthrough release, winning him a Gramophone Award and establishing his reputation as a master of the scholarly and exciting liturgical reconstruction. His reasons for returning to it now seem to be a desire to reflect changes 20 years have brought in playing styles and abilities, to incorporate some musicological tweaks and, in a few cases, to restore the order of items that he originally intended.
So what has changed? Well, the contents are essentially the same, with Mass movements by Andrea Gabrieli at the core, interspersed with plainchant and motets, organ toccatas and ensemble canzonas by Andrea and his nephew Giovanni. The ordering of items is slightly altered but not massively so, perhaps the most noticeable difference being the increased time it takes (15 minutes) to reach some polyphony. This is partly due to a lengthened preamble - not just church bells this time but outdoor crowd noises (rather polite ones), fireworks and some woodwind intradas. But Andrea's vocal music is still solemn and effortlessly beautiful, and Giovanni's Omnes gentes stills blows you away, while his canzonas continue to startle with their fantasy and modernity. If there is a notable change in character, it would be in stronger atmosphere, a clearer realisation of McCreesh's long-made point that this music was principally intended not to echo round every corner of St Mark's but to please the ears of the few dignitaries at the centre of proceedings. The overall sound has a softer edge too, and if the new recording has less of the crowd-pleasing theatrical edge of before, there are gains in the subtler riches and overall know-how: McCreesh's feel for the shifting colours of polychoral music was always fine but he finds extra variety here with greater use of solo voices - most memorably in Andrea's O sacrum convivium.
The many who treasure that first recording should feel no need to discard it; but this second, with its new wisdoms and refinements, certainly has its place.
Gramophone, Lindsay Kemp
Some movies are so popular that after some years they get a 'remake'. The present disc is also a kind of 'remake'. In July 1989 Paul McCreesh recorded a 'Venetian Coronation Mass' as it could have been celebrated in 1595 at the occasion of the appointment of Marino Grimani as the new Doge. Issued by Virgin Classics, it became one of the most popular recordings by the Gabrieli Consort and Players. It was also a kind of showpiece of the ensemble as it featured a liturgical 'reconstruction' which was to become one of its hallmarks. Nearly 25 years after that recording McCreesh thought the time had come to make a new recording. Some of the pieces in the first recording were replaced, but most differences concern performance practice. The booklet includes an interview with McCreesh by Catherine Bott, and it is useful to read this before listening. Here McCreesh explains various aspects of the performance some of which immediately catch the ear.
One of these is that the music sounds much more intimate than one would probably expect, considering that the coronation mass was a major event and the music had to reflect the splendour of which Venice was so proud. One is inclined to attribute this to the venue in which this recording was made, which obviously is very different from St Mark's. McCreesh states that "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. 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".
It certainly does: if you expect large eruptions of sound you will be disappointed. McCreesh is very selective in the scoring of the various pieces. For instance, in the Kyrie à 5 and the Christe à 8 we only hear one or two singers with instruments. Generally McCreesh opted for a performance with one voice per part. "Over the years I have come to believe that one to a part singing was very common in major cathedrals: certainly Andrea Gabrieli's O sacrum convivium gains a marvellous intimacy performed in this way". It is one of the highlights of this disc, and the performance does full justice to the character of its lyrics. Giovanni Gabrieli's setting of Psalm 47, Omnes gentes plaudite manibus, which closes the programme, requires a much more extroverted interpretation, and here we hear all voices and a battery of instruments. It is a shame, by the way, that the booklet doesn't give the scoring of every single piece.
McCreesh's statement that the music was largely performed in the church's choir could also explain that polychoral pieces could be performed without being drowned in the large reverberation of St Mark's. That certainly doesn't happen here, which is not only due to the interpretation but also to the recording technique. Recording this kind of repertoire is anything but easy, and the technical staff deserve accolades for their splendid work.
I referred to this recording as a 'reconstruction'. The quotation marks are justified, because - as McCreesh admits - the programme is "completely speculative". The structure of the liturgy and the kind of music which was available at the time is known. McCreesh’s aim was to bring them together in a way which made sense. He explains his motivation for performing such 'reconstructions'. "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". The programme as it stands may be speculative, but the many short pieces which are included make much more sense than when they are recorded independently. The intonazioni by Giovanni Gabrieli, for instance, were meant to set the tone for a vocal item. It makes little sense to play them without the proper context, also because of their very short length. Let us not forget that most music of that time was composed for a specific occasion, such as the liturgy or for special celebrations. The trumpet pieces by Cesare Bendinelli are from a tutor which has been preserved in manuscript. So this is in fact practice material. It wasn't likely that it would ever appear on disc, but here these pieces make perfect sense. As no Venetian trumpet music has come down to us, they seem to suit the occasion and they are probably not very different from the kind of music which was played in Venice on special occasions like this coronation mass
Paul McCreesh and his colleagues have done a splendid job by putting together this programme which gives a good insight into the way the various compositions were used. Here the music is restored to the kind of context for which it was created. The splendour of Venice and its liturgical events come better to the fore here than in recordings in which individual pieces are played one after the other. We have to be realistic: you can't always perform music as part of a 'reconstruction' as on this disc. Therefore a project like this can help better appreciate other recordings of music by, for instance, the Gabrielis. As McCreesh says, it is today much easier to bring together a group of people who master the often hard-to-play instruments like the cornett and the sackbut. The way they are played here is impressive. The singers are stylistically convincing, also in the plainchant which is taken from Venetian sources of the 16th century. In the pieces with a couple of voices and a larger ensemble of instruments the balance is very good: the voices can be clearly heard. They are not treated as 'soloists'; rather as part of the ensemble.
To sum up: this is a fascinating and musically captivating aural journey to a city whose splendour was impressively illustrated by the splendour of its music.
Musicweb-International.com, Johan van Veen
After reality TV, here's a reality CD. In this attempt to reconstruct the Coronation Mass of Doge Marino Grimani, we start off outside St Mark's Basilica with bells tolling and fireworks going off, before processing inside for a speculative succession of pieces that might have been performed in 1595. It's a more extreme form of a recording made a quarter of a century ago, and makes for an immersive experience for listeners of a historical bent.
The Telegraph, Paul Gent
August 2012 - IRR Outstanding Recording
This is the first CD I can remember listening to which has quite so much fun with its scene-setting sound effects - over eight minutes of fireworks, fanfares and bells. The occasion? Not a Jubilee, but a coronation; not of a Queen, but of a Doge - the elected head of state of the old Venetian Republic.
So, we are setting our clock back to the sixteenth century as Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players re-enact the elaborate Coronation Mass of Doge Marino Grimani which took place in the Basilica of St Mark's, Venice on April 27th, 1595.
Hold on ... I'm sure I've been before. I distinctly remember attending this magnificent service back in ... when was it ... 1990. Yes, McCreesh and his team first presented their coronation reconstruction nearly a quarter of a century ago for Virgin Classics. It swiftly became a best-selling recording and one of the group's most popular touring programmes. Of course, after years on the road with it their approach has changed a bit, and so it makes perfect sense to revisit the occasion in this, the 40th anniversary of the death of Giovanni Gabrieli, whose music, along with that of his uncle Andrea, dominates the programme.
This New Venetian Coronation is much more atmospheric than the first ... not just the expanded opening sound effects but also a constant, subtle background of distant footsteps, rustles and activity - the natural ambience of a large cathedral - which help link together all the elements of the programme. Andrea Gabrieli's polychoral Mass remains at the core, growing from the relative intimacy of its opening five-part 'Kyrie', to an eight-part 'Christe', a 12-part 'Kyrie 11' and then a sumptuous 16-part 'Gloria'. In the interview with McCreesh printed in the booklet he tells us that even after all these years he still feels a 'tingle down his spine' in 'Kyrie 11' when all 12 voices suddenly come in after their leisurely contrapuntal opening - me too. I also noticed that the pitch of the music seems to have gone down markedly since 1990. McCreesh confesses that he later realized that he'd transcribed some pieces at too high a pitch (it's all to do with special clefs used simply to avoid ledger lines). So some pieces have now grown in depth and gravitas as a result.
If you already know the first recording, you'll also notice that there's much less large-scale choral singing here than before. McCrecsh now thinks that a great deal of the more complex vocal music was probably sung by ensembles of solo voices, and combinations of voices and instruments. Andrea Gabrieli's O Sacrum convivium gains in intensity, intimacy and impetus with one voice per part, while there's a whole new range of colours to enjoy in Deus qui beatum Marcum now that the choir has been replaced by a couple of falsettists delighting on a bed of eight sackbuts. McCreesh has also made a few changes to the musical line-up, choosing more appropriate trumpet fanfares, adding processional music for shawms, a new canzona by Giovanni Gabrieli, and moving pieces about a bit.
So, if he can make so many changes, what kind of reconstruction is this? Entirely speculative, it seems. Apart from some wonderfully vocative, but vague, descriptions of similar events at St Mark's in earlier years, there's nothing concrete to go on at all, and certainly not a convenient order of service for April 27th, 1595. What does survive, though, are the outlines of the appropriate liturgy: the plainchant, and knowing where the Venetians liked to replace the voice of the priest with an instrumental Canzona or when it was proper for the organs to play. To flesh things out there's lots of appropriate music to choose from written by St Mark's musicians, like the Gabrielis, all published at the time by Venice's busy printing presses.
So really what we get here is an 'imaginative liturgical reconstruction'. It's an ideal way to programme music of the period. Linked together with a connective tissue of chant, liturgical business and bells, the movements of Andrea Gabrieli's polychoral Mass, and
the various motels and instrumental canzonas, now have a context and make a kind of large-scale structural sense.
It's not all singing, though. Instrumental virtuosity was also an important element of the Venetian style and Giovanni Gabrieli's Canzona for ten instruments contains some white-knuckle virtuosity for two players - a cornet and violin - providing us with a little foretaste of the later Venetian concerto. McCreesh reckons that the original recording, and the concerts he's done subsequently, have been partly responsible for an up urge of interest from younger musicians to take up the principal wind instruments of the time: the cornet and sackbut. I'm sure he's right. I used the original 1990 recording in lectures to enthuse my own students - and I'm delighted to see several of them performing here. I always played them the end of the huge four-choir Omnes gentes by Giovanni Gabrieli because it ratchets up the excitement with ringing triple-time 'alleluias' and because the sackbut players give vent to some outrageously deep brass belches ... which I'm delighted to hear they've kept in their new recording.
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. Although recorded at Douai Abbey in Berkshire, it sounds more exotic, as if the musicians really are arrayed around the galleries and podiums of St Mark's. Highly recommended to both first- and second-time buyers, and on track to inspire yet another generation.
International Record Review, Simon Heighes
Over to ‘La Serenissima’ for Paul McCreesh’s new ‘Venetian Coronation’: some readers may recall the first such disc which the Gabrieli Consort made back in 1989, and the programme has remained (and evolved) in the ensemble’s repertoire ever since. As McCreesh explains in a fascinating and often very touching booklet-note, much has changed in the intervening twenty-odd years, both in the early-music world in general and in terms of his own ideas and research. Several items are performed at a different pitch to that used on the first recording; running-order has been modified, and sections originally given to full choir have been re-allocated to solo voices. If possible, it’s even more atmospheric than the original, with additional pyrotechnics, and the Doge’s jubilatory cornets and sackbuts are splendidly brazen and carnivalesque. What remains constant, however, is McCreesh’s abiding passion for the works of his ensemble’s namesakes – Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli provide the lion’s share of the programme, with instrumental contributions from Bendinelli, Hassler and Gussagno.
Unlike Hollingworth, who employs female sopranos and altos (both appropriately clear-toned without being remotely anaemic), McCreesh uses an all-male alto-tenor-bass line-up: collectively and individually, they’re all superb. Although, as McCreesh points out, good cornet and sackbut players are now thicker on the ground than they were in the 1980s, quite a few of the original personnel have returned for this project, along with musicians of the younger generation whom they inspired: there’s a lovely sense of the baton being passed.
Both these projects have clearly been underpinned by a formidable amount of academic research, not just in sourcing appropriate repertoire but in reconstructing incomplete sources (the booklet-notes for each disc acknowledge many individual contributors), but what makes them special is that they wear their scholarship so lightly. There’s nothing dry or didactic here – just full-blooded, evocative music-making which oozes dedication and enthusiasm.
Presto Classical, Katherine Cooper
In 1989, McCreesh set a trend for re-creations on disc of historic ceremonial occasions with music.The event in question, then and now, was the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani, whose reign coincided with the careers ofAndrea and Giovanni Gabrieli in the service of St Mark's Basilica. Their vocal and instrumental music remains the core of the programme - although Giovanni's most famous piece, the Sonata pian' e forte, has been dropped infavouroflessfamiliarworks- but some of the supporting cast is new, such as Hans Leo Hassler's "processional". Even i f you own the classic Virgin disc, this new version is a must-buy.
The Sunday Times, Hugh Canning
In 1989, McCreesh set a trend for re-creations on disc of historic ceremonial occasions with music. The event in question, then and now, was the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani, whose reign coincided with the careers of Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli in the service of St Mark's Basilica. Their vocal and instrumental music remains the core of the programme "ï¿½ although Giovanni's most famous piece, the Sonata pian' e forte, has been dropped in favour of less familiar works - but some of the supporting cast is new, such as Hans Leo Hassler's "processional". Even if you own the classic Virgin disc, this new version is a must-buy.
The Observer, Hugh Canning
The opening track of prefatory bells and trumpets has been much elaborated, with greater ambient sound and what appear to be celebratory fireworks. Following this clamorous showmanship, the'CD settles down respectfully to the necessary liturgy with a beautiful Mass setting and Communion motet by Giovanni Gabrieli's more sober uncle Andrea, duly surrounded by plainchant prayers, canzonas, and organ interludes.
Overall, the music proceeds with more solemnity than excitement, shrouded in a religiously reverberant acoustic that blurs most words except "Alleluia" … McCreesh's Coronation, past the first track, gives the brain more food for thought.
The Times, Geoff Brown
Andrew McGregor [AM]: Now I'd like to welcome Baroque expert Simon Heighes to the studio "“ Simon, where do we start?
Simon Heighes [SH]: ...with fireworks, fanfares and bells.Â
AM: Were it not for the music that could nearly have been recorded somewhere in London earlier this week I guess, but where are we Simon?
SH: Well not a Jubilee but a Coronation and not of a Queen but of a Doge, that semi- elected head of state of the old Venetian Republic. So we are back in 1595 and Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players are offering us the experience of an elaborate Coronation Mass as it might have been celebrated at St Mark's in Venice.
AM: Now it's not the first time they've done this, is it? It was their famous, almost their debut recording on Virgin Classics; A Venetian Coronation, really well-known.
SH: Yes, and their best-selling CD and they've toured it in lots of concert performances and I think that's partly why they decided to record it again, you know, things have been developing. Giovanni Gabrieli and Andrea Gabrieli are centre-stage here; they're Venetian St Marks' composers. Giovanni Gabrieli celebrates his 400th anniversary this year and I think what McCreesh wanted to do was to put into this recording some of his new discoveries like new instrumental items, more appropriate trumpet music (we get some wonderful buzzing shawms) and there's some more truly choral music. McCreesh has done some research and he reckons that the sort of singing done at St Mark's was less fully-choral and more ensembles of solo voices, so that's reflected here and sometimes we get instruments doubling for the voices, which also leads to much richer sonorities. What really struck me is that I was comparing the two recordings and I thought some of the pitches have changed here, and McCreesh confesses, he says "˜I mis-transcribed some of this music'. It's a complex matter of old Venetian clefs and now some of the music has gone down by quite a long way. Much more gravitas, much greater richness as we'll hear in the final Kyrie of Andrea Gabrieli's Ceremonial Mass, which is at the centre of this construction.
AM: What a wonderful rich sound that is, the sound of the second Kyrie from Andrea's Coronation Mass and in the interview for the notes of this recording, Paul McCreesh contrasts the two composers, saying that Andrea might seem more staid and sober than Giovanni Gabrieli but the music is still immensely beautiful and that really comes over there.
SH: It does and McCreesh also says he feels a tingle down his spine when all twelve voices suddenly come in after the leisurely contrapuntal opening there, and me too!
AM: ...and the sackbuts, and the cornets "“ it's fabulous. Tingles going off all over the studio.
SH: And it's really architecturally inspired music and was recorded at Douai Abbey in Berkshire but it sounds like it was recorded somewhere more exotic, it sounds like it was recorded at St Mark's with all the musicians in the little niches and balconies and podiums right up at the altar end of St Mark's. It's all delicious.
AM: Yes, and something I really liked about the original 25 years ago was the sense of space and if anything, this is more spacious and they take more time filing it as well, don't they?
SH: They do and they've used the same producer actually, Nick Parker, who does an absolutely marvellous job. I'm not quite sure how they've done it but there are a lot of processions too, and ambient noise, so that they individual tracks are connected. We can hear distant footsteps and the sound of distant business and bells. So it's all connected up and you get the sense of a very large cathedral-like building.
AM: Well we've noted that it's at its most weightiness and splendid in the Kyrie, but there's real instrumental virtuosity on display too.
SH: Yes that's right and it's a really important element of the Venetian style because they wished to use this music, not just as it were, to praise God, but also its secular value as an instrument of state. Many of the instrumental movements were used to replace liturgical items in the service. I mean, the service itself is entirely speculative, this reconstruction, which McCreesh admits.
AM: Well it says in the notes (there's a nice interview with Catherine Bott) he says "˜look, we don't have a clue'.
SH: Well there are lots of nice descriptions but there's nothing concrete, but what we do have is a good set of books which tell us about Venetian liturgy, which are used here, so we know what plain chant there is. And of course the music itself survives - the Venetian music presses were churning out the stuff. So we've got all the essential ingredients, it's just how they fit together and the instrumental movements are pivotal here because the Venetians didn't like listening to their priests, they much preferred to have them talking in secret, quietly intoning the words, but what the congregation listens to are pieces like this gloriously elaborate Canzona in ten parts.
AM: Giovanni Gabrieli's Canzona in ten parts and at the top there we had a wonderful cornet and violin underpinned by sackbuts, a foretaste of the later Venetian Concerto and Paul McCreesh reckons that the original recording and the concerts he gave really led to an increase in interest in the playing of the cornet and the sackbut. He says many of his players have been teaching the next generation and I entirely agree with him. I was looking down the cast list of this recording and thinking I recognise a lot of my own students here and I always played them an extract from the huge four part Omnes Gentes, with which this recording concludes, because Giovanni Gabrieli ratchets up the excitement really powerful with ringing triple-time alleluias and the brass players, the bottom sackbuts, get the chance to have some fun with some outrageously deep brass belches, which I'm delighted they're still doing here.
AM: There they go, Omnes Gentes by Giovanni Gabrieli, the motet which presages the outgoing processional of the newly-crowned Doge of Venice, at least in the imaginary construction of the Venetian Coronation from the Gabrieli Consort and Players, directed by Paul McCreesh. It's on the Gabrieli's own Winged Lion label from Signum Classics, and well Simon, that's obviously one of your favourite moments, and quite rightly, I just want to hear it again actually, straight away, but it's still available, the original at mid-price from Virgin Classics and it has been an important recording. It's lovely to have this follow-up recording twenty-five years on, isn't it?
SH: It is and you really hear that the group has changed. I think the soloists now are better, the singers are much punchier and recording techniques have gone on a stage or two. It's absolutely tremendous.
BBC Radio 3, CD Review
With this new Venetian Coronation release, Paul McCreesh follows in the footsteps of other foremost choral conductors including John Eliot Gardiner and Harry Christophers in re-recording for their own independent labels – in this case Winged Lion, a subsidiary of Signum – repertoire which they had originally recorded for major labels. Issued in 1990 by Virgin, the imaginatively realised sequence recreating the coronation service of a Doge at St Mark's Venice in 1595 first put McCreesh and his Gabrieli Consort and Players on the map. Twenty-two years later, they have decided to recreate the recreation, taking advantage of the latest scholarship and recording techniques. So has it been worth it?
The 50 seconds of solitary bell chimes that open the original now sounds down-beat and apologetic in comparison with the eight-minute riot of festive pealing and anticipatory crowd hubbub which ushers in this remake. An audio equivalent of Photoshop cleverly places studio performances of processional wind band music into the joyous cacophony of church bells (presumably recorded in Venice itself, although the notes do not confirm this). It is a realistic effect, placing us right in the heart of St Mark's Square – although it can be a frustrating experience if you want to listen properly to the music, which gets subsumed in the melee.
Once inside St Mark's (actually the warmly reverberant Douai Abbey in Berkshire), 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 of music by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli and their contemporaries. An especial aural delight is the sumptuously rich lower brass of Andrea Gabrieli's Sanctus & Benedictus. McCreesh sometimes luxuriates in this sound too much – Giovanni Gabrieli's Canzona 16 in 15 parts would benefit from greater rhythmic buoyancy – but it's hard to blame him.
Though missing some of the raw enthusiasm and exploratory sense of the original, this vividly atmospheric and engrossing remake is an improvement in almost every other respect.
BBC.co.uk/Music, Graham Rogers
The latest of Paul McCreesh's large-scale musical projects, following his award-winning realisation of Berlioz's colossal Grande Messe des Morts, is this updated re-recording of the album that in 1990 established the reputation of the Gabrieli Consort & Players, a detailed re-creation of the pageantry surrounding the coronation of Marino Grimani as Doge of Venice in 1595. 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 cornetts, sackbutts and shawms. It's never less than enthralling, especially the lengthy opening "The Procession".