The Myth of Venice

The Myth of Venice
16th-century music for cornetto & keyboards
Gawain Glenton & Silas Wollston
Delphian DCD34261. 61’50

In a very successful bit of promotional branding, medieval Venice built a perception of itself as La Serenissima (“the most serene”) and the successor of ancient Rome, with a similarly impressive range of foundation myths and ceremonials, that led historians to reference as the Myth of Venice. The myth was largely supported by its architecture, then as now a draw for visitors from around the world. This recording, The Myth of Venice explores the musical development of the Myth of Venice, exploring the 16th-century Venetian composers and performers who helped to put Venice on the musical map. Their starting point is Adrian Willaert’s arrival in 1527 on to the end of the century, with composers including Parabosco, Padovano, Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, Bellavere, Ganassi and Bassano.

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Monteverdi Vespers

Monteverdi Vespers
L’Arpeggiata, Christina Pluhar
Tue 14 Dec 2021, Barbican Hall

Monteverdi’s monumental 1610 Vespro della Beata Vergine is now considered mainstream repertoire, but it was unusual to hear it performed alongside the inevitable sequence of Messiah’s in the run-up to Christmas. It was equally good that, amongst the current complicated Anglo-French relations, London could welcome the French group L’Arpeggiata and their founder/director Christina Pluhar. Current Covid and travel issues meant that they were rather more Anglo than usual, with several UK musicians drafted in at short notice to replace those unable to travel. The concert took place live on 14 December in the Barbican Hall, but was also available to stream live, which is how I saw the performance.

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La Morte Della Ragione

La Morte Della Ragione ‘The Death of Reason’
Il Giardino Armonico, Giovanni Antonini
Outhere Music. ALPHA 450. CD Book. 73’07

La Morte della Ragione (The Death of Reason) (CD + Book) | Alpha ALPHA450

La Morte della Ragione (The Death of Reason) is the sort of recording that may require you to put on a seat belt before listening. Under the banner of Petrarch’s comment that “Senses reign, and Reason is dead” Il Giardino Armonico take us on a whistlestop tour through a sizeable chunk of early music history. The choice of descriptor is deliberate, as it is also very obviously a showcase for the virtuoso recorder playing of director Giovanni Antonini, which dominates much of the programme and comes vey close to be too clever by half.

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Music in a Cold Climate

Music in a Cold Climate: Sounds of Hansa Europe
In Echo, Gawain Glenton (director)
Delphian DCD34206. 67’32

In Echo is a new period instrument group, directed by the cornettist Gawain Glenton. Their core instrumental line-up of cornetto, violin, sackbut (doubling violin), bass viol and keyboards has been expanded for this their debut recording by an additional violin/viola, bass viol and, in one piece, a violone. Their programme retraces the route of musicians active in the Hanseatic League (Hansa) during its heyday in the 16th and 17th centuries. The league was a trading partnership encompassing several countries, from Tallinn to London via the Germanic free cities of Lübeck, Hamburg, and Bremen and similar ports in Holland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The CD programme notes mention that the represented composers “each looked beyond their own shores and toward a sense of shared European culture and understanding” – a timely reminder today of the importance of freedom of travel for musicians. For this recording, In Echo also commissioned a new composition to complement the early pieces – Andrew Keeling’s Northern Soul. Continue reading

Ein neues Lied: Martin Luther and music

Ein neues Lied: Martin Luther and music
Renaissance Singers, Gawain Glenton
St George’s Bloomsbury
29 October 2017

The Renaissance Singers were founded in 1944. They played an important part in the revival of interest in Renaissance sacred polyphony as the early music movement grew and developed. They continue under the musical direction of David Allinson. For this exploration of the music of Martin Luther and the early Lutheran Church, they were directed by Gawain Glenton. The anniversary of the founding of Lutherism was just a few days away from this concert (on 31 October), so it was a timely reminder of theimportance of music to Luther.  Continue reading

Monteverdi: The Other Vespers

Monteverdi: The Other Vespers
I Fagiolini, The English Cornett & Sackbut Ensemble, The 24, Robert Hollingworth
Decca 4831654. 80’23

During this 450th Monteverdi anniversary year there will be many performances and recordings of the 1610 Vespers. But for this ‘not the 1610’ recording, I Fagiolini have reconstructed a Vespers service inspired by a Dutch tourist’s 1620 record of hearing Monteverdi direct a Vespers on the Feast of the Nativity of John the Baptist. The psalms and the plainchant on this recording are from that feast, using music by Monteverdi and his contemporaries. The Monteverdi contribution comes from his Selva morale e spirituale, published in 1641, but containing music written much earlier. Whereas the 1610 Vespers are intended for feasts of the Virgin or other female saints, the 1641 collection contains psalms for feasts of male saints. Continue reading