The Devine Vespers, a service of evening prayer in the Roman-Catholic Church, has provided both occasion and inspiration for some of the most sumptuous music ever composed. But not many churches in the seventeenth century could afford the lavish instrumental and vocal resources needed to play the likes of Monteverdi’s grandiose Vespro della Beata Vergine. For many of the smaller and more provincial churches, an acceptable compromise at evening service was the playing of smaller-scale sacred chamber music. This led in the seventeenth century to a tremendous outpouring of sacred music for small groups of singers and instrumentalists, as performed by The Gonzaga Band on this disc.
During Vespers, it became commonplace to alternate the obligatory psalms with a number of extra-liturgical instrumental pieces. This recording follows the same structure. The psalms, by Banchieri, Finetti, Petrobelli, and Monferrato, are complemented and framed by a variety of joyous instrumental works by Tarditi, Cima, Piccinini, Frescobaldi, Crotti, Sances, and Cazzati.
The Gonzaga Band was formed by the cornettist Jamie Savan in 1997 to explore historical approaches to the performance of vocal and instrumental music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its line-up is project led: the very best vocalists and period instrumentalists are ‘hand picked’ according to the specialist requirements of each programme. On this recording, The Gonzaga Band is joined by the mezzo-soprano Clare Wilkinson and cornettist Gawain Glenton.
“even with just two or three musicians, the sound they create is often remarkably opulent. Savan and company have a seemingly instinctive feel for this repertoire, their persuasive performances delivered with terrific flare and panache...it is impossible to dip into it and not discover a wonderful gem.” Graham Rogers, bbc.co.uk, 8th September 2011
“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.” Classic FM Magazine, November 2011 ****
“Congregations in 17th-century Ancona or Bologna would have been lucky indeed to hear instrumental playing remotely as vivid as the Gonzaga Band's. Savan and Gawain Glenton are cornettists of flair and subtlety...If both singers could have wrung more drama from the words, their pure, instrumental timbres (blending perfectly with each other, and with the cornetts), delicacy and easy agility are invariably beguiling.” Gramophone Magazine, December 2011