João Rodrigues Esteves
Joao RODRIGUES ESTEVES (c.1700-c.1750) was sent by the very Catholic King Joao V to Rome to study the Italian style of composition. After a stay of seven years, he returned in 1726 to be named mestre de capela at the Basilica of St Maria in Lisbon and later teacher at the Seminario Patriacal. Over one hundred works have survived, all sacred - including two masses, two Magnificats and a Stabat mater as well as numerous psalms and motets. No doubt much was lost in the earthquake of 1755.
In the Miserere a tre cori, the textural possibilities offered by the third choir are used in a masterly fashion to add both colour and intensity to the text and to its organisation, with the overwhelming tuttis contrasted with the plainchant (even-numbered) verses, and delicately written quartets for 4 solo voices - each choir has a verse to itself. The echo at the end of verse 17 of the extraordinary sequence of descending dominant 7ths first heard at the end of verse 1 is a masterstroke – the harmonic sequence is identical, but all the parts are rewritten, generally higher, to make the harmonies more plangent. Few works show such a perfect marriage between ravishing sound and heart-wrenching harmonies.
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