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Ave Maria – Music for Marian Festivals
Stefano BERNADI (1577 – 1637)
Sinfonia V all'Epistola
Alberich MAZAK (1609 – 1661)
Ave Maria, gratia plena [2.49]
Rupert Ignaz MAYR (1646 – 1712)
Sancta Maria, mater Dei
Antonio CALDARA (c.1670 – 1736)
Alma redemptoris mater [5.55]
Alessandro GRAND (c.1577 – 1736)
Ave mundi spes Maria
Heinrich Ignaz Franz BIBER (1644 – 1704)
Sonata in G a cinque [5.53]
Tarquinio MERULA (1595 – 1665)
Gaudeamus omnes in Domino [3.21]
Alessandro POGLIETTI (? - 1683)
Ave Regina coelorum
Arcangelo CROTTI (17th century)
Sonata sopra “Sancta Maria” [2.13]
Francesco CAVALLI (1602 – 1676)
O quam suavis et decora
Pal ESTERHAZY (1635 – 1713), Cristofero CARESANA (1640-1709)
Ave Maris Stella [9.17]
Rudolph DE LASSUS (1563 – 1625)
Regina Coeli [3.01]
Alessandro POGLIETTI (? - 1683)
Ad matrem venite
Anonymous (Codex Cajoni)
Sonata Surge
Pater Adalbert GRUNDE (1st half of 17th century)
Sub tuum praesidium [3.23]
Georg Christoph LEUTTNER (1644 – 1703)
Salve Regina [5.17]
Nurial Rial (soprano)
Bell'Arte Salzburg/Annegret Siedel
rec. 18-22 July 2008, Produktionsstatte Gartnerstrasse, Salzburg


Experience Classicsonline

On this delightful disc, Catalan soprano Nuria Rial and the Bell'Arte Salzburg ensemble explore the wealth of 17th century devotional material dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The music comes mainly from the South German, Hapsburg and Italian Courts. Musicians moved freely between these areas so that though there is a remarkable diversity in the music, there is also quite a degree of stylistic coherence.

In order o give structure to the programme, director Annegret Siedel has divided the music into four sections, each based around one of the four Marian festivals and concluding with one of the four major Marian antiphons (Alma Redemptoris Mater, Ave regina coelorum, Regina coeli, Salve Regina).

The ensemble Bell'Arte Salzburg was formed in 1995 and takes a particular interest in 17th and 18th century Austrian and German music. On this disc the basic ensemble consists of two violins, three gambas and basso continuo, though the exact make-up varies from item to item. The ensemble also punctuate the recital with non-vocal items.

They open with a liturgical sonata by Bernadi, which was presumably performed during the mass. Bernadi held posts in Verona before becoming kapellmeister at the Salzburg court. This is followed by an Ave Maria setting by Alberich Mazak. Mazak sets the well known text in a simple concertato style for soprano and two violins. Mazak lived and worked at the Cistercian Hailkigkreuz Monastery near Vienna. Mayr's Sancta Maria, mater Dei introduces variety by treating the vocal part as arioso and recitative, as well as adding some coloratura passages. Mayr worked at the court in Munich before becoming kapellmeister to the Archbishop in Freising. This group finishes with Caldara's Alma Redemptoris Mater. Caldara worked in Venice, Mantua and Rome before becoming deputy kapellmeister in Vienna.

The second group opens with Grandi's Ave mundi spes Maria, in which Grandi structures the piece by using striking ritornellos for two violins. Grandi worked under Monteverdi in Venice before moving to Bergamo. The sonata by Biber that follows is from a collection called Sonatae, tam Aris, quam Aulis servientes, which suggests that Biber intended them for chamber and sacred use. Biber was also kapellmeister at the Salzburg court. Merula's motet Gaudeamus omnes comes from a set which was published in Venice in 1641. He worked mainly in his native Cremona, but spent a periods at the court in Warsaw and in Bergamo. Finally Poglietti's Ave Regina coelorum sets the Marian antiphon for soprano and 4 string voices plus basso continuo. The work is characterised by some quite striking modulations. Poglietti was a leading musician at the Viennese court. He was strongly associated with the Prince-Bishop of Olmütz (now Olomouc) and the major portion of his manuscripts are preserved there today.

Fra Arcangelo Crotti was a musician monk, Crotti's Sonata sopra Sancta Maria sets the litany-like supplication to the virgin against a lively background of two violins and basso continuo. It is faintly reminiscent of the better known Monteverdi sonata in the 1610 vespers. Cavalli's O quam suavis et decora uses a text assembled from a variety of sources including the Song of Solomon. Cavalli was choirmaster-organist at St. Mark's in Venice and was evidently a gifted singer himself. Pal Esterhazy was a Hungarian Prince and Count Palatine. He assembled a collection called Harmonia Caelestis in 1711 and his own simple strophic setting of Ave Maris Stella comes from this. The group alternate the verses of Ave Maris Stella with viol duos from Caresana's set of duos based on the verses of Ave Maris Stella. Caresana worked as organist and conductor of the court orchestra in Naples.

The final group opens with another work by Poglietti - this time a setting of an otherwise unknown text Ad matrem venite, which Poglietti gives in a highly coloured setting. The anonymous three voice canzona Surge propera amica mea comes from a manuscript in the Hungarian National Library. The Marian antiphon Sub tuum praesidium is probably the oldest Marian prayer from the Coptic Church. Here it is given in a setting by Pater Adalbert Grunde who was probably a pupil of another Salzburt court kapellmeister, Johann Stadlmayr. Finally the group finish with the Salve Regina by Leuttner, taken from a collection published in Munich in 1689. Leuttner was the kapellmeister at the Stiftskirche in Altötting and seems to have published numerous other works which are lost.

This is a delightful recital and one of its major charms is the way you can simply ignore the structure of the disc and the provenance of all the pieces and simply sit back and enjoy the music-making. Annegret Siedel and her musicians have provided us with a remarkable variety of pieces, from composers of various backgrounds. But they all partook of the same musical culture so that the disc hangs together beautifully, providing both variety and interconnecting links.

Nurial Rial has a lovely focused soprano voice. Her voice is of the school of Emma Kirkby, but with slightly more of an overtone of richness. Some of these pieces call for significant vocal virtuosity and Rial provides this effortlessly. She is a complete joy to listen to. But this disc is not just about the soprano soloist; Rial also functions nicely as a member of the whole ensemble. The disc comes over as a civilised exercise in vocal and instrumental chamber music. The musicians of Bell'Arte Salzburg prove equally as accomplished. They accompany Rial, dialogue with her and show off nicely when the composers give them the opportunity. What I keep coming back to is the sense of dialogue between the musicians - this is real chamber music.

The CD booklet includes an informative article along with full texts and translations.

I have nothing but praise for this disc, and such is its quality that I can safely commend it to anyone interested in good music-making. You don't have to be interested in 17th century German sacred music to find the performances on this disc entrancing.

Robert Hugill



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