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Rome in the 18th century: this reconstruction of Marian Vespers: five psalms, a Magnificat and their brief antiphons - is drawn from the works of the maestro di cappella of St Peter's, Virgilio Mazzocchi, and his close colleagues Carissimi and Frescobaldi.Anything but austere, this music is a worthy successor to that of the great Palestrina. Founded in 1987 by Konrad Junghänel, the Cantus Cölln vocal ensemble soon came to be regarded as one of the finest ensembles on the international musical scene. It devotes itself essentially to the italian and german renaissance and baroque and the rediscovery of an entire, but hitherto rather neglected musical production has met with resounding public success. Its first record (Schein's Diletti Pastorali) won several international awards. The members of the Cantus Cölln are all singers with successful careers as soloists, but everyone who has heard it has been struck by the extraordinary homogeneity of the ensemble. Since 1996 Cantus Cölln has recorded exclusively for harmonia mundi France.
“The performances, with Conrad Junghänel conducting his Cantus Cölln, are flawless.” The Guardian
“Their light, Italianate scoring coupled with their overall air of gentle melancholy, produces an effect of charming and exquisitely polished naivety, perfectly matched by Cantus Cölln's mellifluous and delicately nuanced performances.” The Daily Telegraph
1st March 2009
“The string playing is zestful, while Concerto Palatino's sackbutts and cornett add lustre. Sadly, the singing is often thin and unsupported, sounding more authentic to the early days of the early music movement than baroque devotional music.”
13th March 2009
“The recording, made in a church in Mandelsloh near Hanover, is on the reverberant side and doesn't quite convey how this music might sound in a vast space, but the singing and playing are ravishing. The Carissimi antiphons are breathtaking, and the period brass ensemble Concerto Palatino do wonders with the Frescobaldi.”
“This disc includes settings of the five Vesper psalms and the Magnificat, all published posthumously. Interspersed with these are motets by Mazzocchi and his contemporary, Giacomo Carissimi (on the back of the packaging they are confusingly called antiphons). Together with a Salve regina by Carissimi (which is indeed an antiphon), a canzona by Frescobaldi and an Ave maris stella by the much earlier Palestrina, they make up a reconstructed 'Vespers for the Virgin'. The psalms are scored for double choir, which means that – as the singers of Cantus Cölln number eight – they are sung one to a part. They are doubled, though, by a small string group and the cornett and trombones of Concerto Palatino, and the sound is surprisingly rich. The homophonic passages are leavened with concertato sections, when the brass is silent. This provides a welcome variety, as a little quasi-Venetian splendour goes quite a long way. Mazzocchi shows himself to be a very competent practitioner, well worth hearing. Surge amica mea, for two sopranos, is a setting of two of the less erotic verses from the Song of Solomon, ending with a melismatic 'Alleluia'. Even more ear-tickling is Carissimi's Exsurge cor meum, sung here by a tenor, with the excellent cornett of Bruce Dickey taking one of the two obbligato parts. Konrad Junghänel conducts with plenty of verve; a raised eyebrow for the reference to 'Rome in the 18th century' on the back cover.”
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