Conti: Missa Sancti Pauli

Francesco Bartolomeo Conti: Missa Sancti Pauli
Purcell Choir, Orfeo Orchestra, György Vashegyi
Glossa, GCD924004. 67’25

György Vashegyi and his Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra take time out from their impressive series of recordings of music of the French Baroque for this CD of the grand 1715 Missa Sancti Pauli by the Italian Francesco Bartolomeo Conti (c1681-1732). Conti was born in Florence and worked for most of his life in the Hapsburg court in Vienna, initially as a theorbist and mandolin player, and then as court composer and vice-Kapellmeister. Despite his comparatively low profile nowadays, he was well respected in his time, not least by Bach and Zelenka. He does, however, seem to have got into trouble for beating up a priest (see here). A composer of operas as well as sacred music, it was the latter that kept his name alive after his death, deservedly if this attractive Mass setting is anything to go by.

It seems possible that the Mass was composed for a commemorative service in Vienna’s Schottenkirche. Although there are others, the principal source (edited for this recording) is a manuscript in the Schottenstift. An instrumental Sonata and motet Fastos cæli audite (Motetto per ogni Santi, e per il giorno di tutti gli Santi) is found in the same source, and both are included in this recording between the Gloria and Credo.

The music is perhaps not the finest ever written but is nonetheless well worth a listen. It falls into a slightly curious style between Baroque and early Classical, with elements of both, and of opera. There are occasions when is a little formulaic but is not alone in that. The little violin figure in the Domine Deus reminds me of a similar passage in a Handel aria, who is known to have ‘borrowed’ some of his music.

The Purcell Choir and Orfeo Orchestra (led by Simon Standage) are on very good form. Although the notes refer to bassoons in the plural, only one is listed. But they make themselves heard, as does the organ. The vocal soloists are not quite up to the standard of their colleagues, some with rather unstable voices. More information can be found here.