TWO CHOIRS OF KING'S COLLEGE SEPARATED BY TEN YEARS, BUT STILL SUPERIOR!
Rome and Venice: two great centres of Italian music in the 16th and 17th centuries.
One of the principal figures of the Roman school of composition was Nanino whe was not only a respected composer but also a teacher of some repute, whose teachers included himself, his brother and none other than Palestrina. Another who passed through the tutellage of Nanino was Gregorio Allegri. In 1629 he became a singer in the Papal Chapel choir, for which he wrote his famous 'Misere mei'.
Girolamo Frescobaldi is remembered more as a composer of works for harpsichord and organ, though his choral output was considerable. Like Frescobaldi, Luca Marenzio is not now remembered for his sacred music, but for his vast output of secular madrigals.
In St. Mark's Venice the building has been uniquely influential on the composers connected with it. This has come about from the simple fact that there are two separate choir lofts, each with its own organ, encouraging composers to use two choirs widely spaced to antiphonal effect. (You can get a good picture of this in Gardiner's DVD of Monteverdi's 'Vespro Della Beata Virgine'; excellent live performance,)
This technique of 'coro spezzati' had been long established but reached its peak in the works of Gabrieli.
Gabrieli took the idea of contrast to the very limits, juxtaposing in every combination, two, three or four choirs (as in 'Omnes gentes'and 'Buccinate in Neomenania tuba'), organ, brass ensembles, solo voices ranged against the full forces of instruments and choirs. The dramatic effects would have been heightened by positioning the players and singers at all corners of the building, surrounding the worshipper with the most glorious sound.
There are two choirs, each with different conductors and recording dates, on this disc. Stephen Cleobury recorded his portion in 1983, while David Willcocks choir is from 1973. Both choirs are above reproach in their performance. They are truly outstanding in every way. A quote from Gramophone concerning the rendition of Frescobaldi's 'Messa sopra.....' is as follows: '"Frescobaldi's Missa sopra l'aria della Monica' is genuinely engaging....As a piece it is full of surprises and original ideas, and its qualities are well brought out by some light and lively singing." To this I heartily agree; it was delightful to hear and such perfection in all the selections in blending, choral balance, diction and that wonderful crystal-clear sound of the boy sopranos and the mellow male altos. Another 'gem' from King's.!