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CD booklet
Musica Vaticana

Early Music Review
April 1, 2012

 Soriano, Ugolini and Benevoli, major figures in what is often called the 'colossal Baroque', are well performed here with organ and violone accompanirnent, as was often the case in St. Peter's. A harp is added to some tracks. Benevoli is particularly successful here with two small-scale motets for two sopranos sandwiching an impressive four-choir setting of the psalm Laudate pueri Dominum; Ugolini's Mass (odd.ly performed without Gloria and Credo incipits) works well too. Pitoni con-tinued the tradition into the late baroque and the Montreal singers revel in the strong contrasts which characterise his extended Dixit Dominus. Well worth having for first modern recordings of some neglected Roman repertoire.

Noel O'Regan - Early Music Review

BBC Music Magazine
February 1, 2012

 ★★★

Great work sung by good singers.

Anthony Pryer - BBC Music Magazine

Musical Toronto
December 19, 2011

 Montrealers deliver sample of Vatican's rich and underappreciated musical heritage

Montrealer Christopher Jackson and his Studio de Musique Ancienne have made one of their most ambitious recordings, taking on a cross-section of sacred music written to be sung by the Cappella Giulia (the Julian Choir — the Pope’s personal ensemble at the Vatican) in Rome.

The pieces on this album were written between the mid-16th century to the early-18th century. Most are for 12 or 16 parts, meaning three or four four-part choirs. That alone says much about the complexity of the music presented here.

Jackson has chosen well, with the help of organist Réjean Poirier, who arranged the Missa Beata es Virgo Maria by Vincenzo Ugolini (1570-1638), and Noel O’Reagan, who must have spent hours in the Vatican libraries transcribing manuscripts of 12-part motets by Giovanni De Macque (d. 1614) and Francesco Soriano (1549-1621).

The two best-known composers on this disc are Orlando di Lasso (d. 1594), who contributes the 12-part motet, Domine, quid multiplicati sunt, and Orazio Benvoli (1605-1672), who is represented by two motets for sopranos and continuo and a 16-part (plus continuo) creampuff, Laudate pueri Dominum.

The intricacy of the music is entrancing, and this disc is worth savouring multiple times to truly appreciate the craft behind this music.

John Terauds - Musical Toronto

La Scena Musicale
December 1, 2011

 ★★★★★

Les oeuvres présentées ici proviennent presque toutes de compositeurs italiens qui furent directeurs de la Capella Giulia à Rome entre 1600 et 1743. L'autre chapelle bien connue dans la ville éternelle fut, bien entendu, la Sistina. Ici, cependant, nous ne sommes pas à Rome, mais bien à l'église Saint-Augustin de Mirabel, dont la sonorité chaude et feutrée a été très bien captée. Les voix riches de l'ensemble possèdent dans ce lieu une grande douceur d'expression qui plonge l'auditeur dans la contemplation et l'admiration. Les parties vocales se répondent à tour de rôle dans un doux balancement perpétuel. Les 16 voix du SMAM sont bien représentées dans l'espace sonore, ce qui nous permet de «visualiser» sans trop de difficulté les différentes voix et d'en apprécier le contre-point. Les solistes sont regroupés en 3 ou 4 choeurs distincts et sont accompagnés quelques fois par une basse continue (violoncelle, harpe et orgue). Deux motets de Benevoli sont pour trois et quatre sopranos solistes. Ils sont brillament exécutés avec des mélismes joyeux d'une grande virtuosité. À noter aussi la fugue qui termine le Dixit Dominus de Pitoni pour 16 voix en 4 choeurs: un morceau de bravoure!

René F. Auclair - La Scena Musicale

Son et Images
December 1, 2011

  Ici, mais également à l'étranger et notamment en Europe, c'est maintenant chose connue et reconnue: la musique ancienne est fort bien servie sur notre territoire, et, dirigé par Christopher Jackson, le Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal est à ranger parmi ses acteurs majeurs. Cet ensemble s'est cette fois-ci concentré sur la « musique polychorale à la basilique Saint Pierre de Rome ». Pour l'essentiel, la polyphonie renaissante est de nature religieuse, ce qui ne l'empêche pas, malgré des balises strictes, d'être inventive et diversifiée. Car tout de même, elle s'est développée pendant près de deux siècles et elle a vu oeuvrer des créateurs comme de Roland de Lassus (v1532-1594) ou Vincenzo Ugolini (1570-1638). Six au total ont été mis à contribution pour le présent enregistrement. Une musique pour l'âme qui procure des émotions uniques.

Benoît Martel - Son et Images

Fanfare
November 11, 2011

  The unitary thread in the program of this CD is that all of the composers were directly or secondarily associated with the Cappella Giulia, the chapel choir officially established on February 19, 1513, by Pope Julius for the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel. Francesco Soriano (1549–1621), considered to be one of Palestrina’s finer pupils, directed the Cappella from 1603 until 1620, and was succeed by Vincenzo Ugolini (1570–1638) from 1620 to 1626. Orazio Benevoli (1605–72), a pupil of Ugolini, occupied the post in turn from 1646 until his death in 1672. I could not immediately find further information on these two figures. Somewhat later, Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni (1657–1743) succeeded Domenico Scarlatti as the Cappella’s director from 1719 until his death in 1743; remarkably, he also served lifetime appointments in Rome as maestro di cappella of the Basilica of San Marco from 1677, the Church of the Holy Apostles from 1686, and the Church of St. John Lateran from 1708. Like Corelli, Handel, and Scarlatti père et fils , he enjoyed the long-term patronage of the music-loving Cardinal Pietro Ottoboni; incredibly prolific, his 3,500 compositions include some 325 Masses, 800 psalm settings, and 235 motets. For his part, Orlande de Lassus (c.1532 –94) served briefly during 1553–54 as maestro di cappella of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Rome—where both Palestrina and Soriano pursued studies—before he found lifelong employment at the court of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria in 1556. Although Giovanni de Macque (c.1550–1614) primarily made his career in Naples from 1586 onward, before that he spent time in Rome, where he met both Palestrina and Soriano.

As one would expect, the compositions illustrate a progression of musical styles from the late-Renaissance polyphony of Lassus and Macque, through a transitional mixture of late-Renaissance and early-Baroque elements in Soriano, onward to the full-blown early-Baroque works of Ugolini and Benevoli, and concluding with Pittoni in the late-Baroque. The pieces by de Lassus and de Macque are sung a cappella , whereas those by Soriano, Ugolini, Benevoli, and Pitoni are performed with a basso continuo instrumental accompaniment, variously rendered here with Baroque cello, violone, contrabass, harp, and organ. The recorded sound is up close and resonant in the a cappella pieces, slightly further back (with continuo instruments more recessed yet) in the accompanied ones. Texts and notes are provided in Latin, English, and French.


This is the second release on ATMA that the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montreal has devoted to music of 16th- and 17th-century Rome; the previous disc (titled Roma triumphans ) apparently was not submitted for review. The ensemble has appeared sporadically in these pages, with releases on K617 (liturgical chants) and Analekta (works of Giacomo Carissimi and Marc-Antoine Charpentier) as well as ATMA (more Charpentier and the Lagrime di San Pietro of Lassus). J. F. Weber has generally praised them (in 19:3 and 19:4), while Brian Robins has given them more mixed reviews (in 19:5, 22:4, and 29:3). I would characterize these performances as highly polished but not stylistically distinctive. While not identified as such, I believe that all or most of the works on this disc are premiere recordings (the Ugolini Mass is not to be confused with his motet of the same title that has enjoyed several recordings). Given proficient renderings, that alone is enough to warrant a recommendation for a disc that sheds further light on the music of lesser masters in Italy during the period 1550 to 1750.


James A. Altena - Fanfare

Ariama.com - Sony Music
October 17, 2011

 ★★★★★

[...] superb recording by the Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal under the direction of Christopher Jackson.

Jackson is to be commended for constructing a program that’s filled with surprises. With the exception of Roland de Lassus (who is represented by a gorgeous 12-voice motet Domine, quid multiplicati sunt) the composers on the program are not particularly well-known. No matter, this is terrific music. I’ve known Giovanni de Macque’s keyboard music, but his motet Ave regina cælorum impresses with its three choirs singing alternating verses is impressive. Working on a grander scale was Domenico Scarlatti’s successor at Cappella Giulia, Giuseppe Pittoni. Pittoni’s Dixit Dominus is a muscular 16-voice powerhouse that gets maximum drama and volume from massed voices. Delicate madrigalist touches makes Orazio Benevoli’s motet O sacramentum pietatis for three sopranos and continuo one of the treasures of the program. Perhaps Jackson and company have a full Benevoli program in them?

Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal is one of the finest ensembles performing this music today. Their massed choral sound is sufficiently hefty, but they also sing with sensitivity and rhythmic acuity. The soloists are all top-notch, particularly the four sopranos who make the Benevoli motet Juravit Dominum so memorable. As with all ATMA Classique recordings, the sound quality is outstanding. If you don’t know Studio de Musique Ancienne de Montréal, I suggest you start with this album and then their sublime Rise, O My Soul. You can then work through their catalog and thank me later.

Craig Zeichner - Ariama.com

 

Radio-Canada - Première Chaîne
October 8, 2011

 (...) Un disque absolument magistral… on est habitués, d’ailleurs, c’est toujours aussi bon avec cet ensemble et M. Jackson!

Edgar Fruitier - Samedi et rien d'autre

All Music
September 1, 2011

Sound: ★★★★ ½
Performance: ★★★★ ½

With this 2011 release, Musica Vaticana, Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal, led by its founder Christopher Jackson, solidifies its reputation as one of the very finest choirs specializing in music of the Baroque and Renaissance. Its tone is warmly blended and pure, and it is able to produce a wide range of tonal colors suited to whatever is being performed. Most importantly, the chorus enters fully into the spirit of the music, so its performances are lively and spontaneous-sounding. It brings just the right grave nobility and earnestness to Lassus' motet Domine, quid multiplicati sunt, and an appropriately intense expressivity to some of the quirkier Baroque works. In Giovanni de Macque's motet, Ave Regina Coeli, for instance, the heavy sadness of the repeated "Vale," (Farewell), is delivered, to terrific effect, with an almost madrigalian anguish. Most of this repertoire, primarily for multiple choirs and basso continuo, is recorded here for the first time and there are some real treasures in addition to the works mentioned above. Giuseppe Ottavio Pitoni, maestro di cappella at St. Peter's for nearly a quarter of a century, was one of the most famous Roman musicians of the early 18th century, and left well over 4000 compositions but is hardly known today. His Dixit Dominus is a wonderfully eccentric work with choral writing that's all over the map stylistically, including some foreshadowing of Philip Glass. Orazio Benevoli's motets for groups of solo sopranos and continuo are especially lovely and lyrical. In such distinctive and unconventional company, the largest work, Vincenzo Ugolini's Missa Beata es Virgo Maria, comes off as routine and formulaic. The elegant, understated continuo part is provided by organ, strings, and harp. Atma's sound is vivid, with good balance and ambience.

Stephen Eddins - All Music