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Joseph-Hector FIOCCO (1703-1741)
Petits Motets - Volume 2
Salve regina [12:22]
Exaudiat te Dominus (1728) [9:35]
O beatissima virgo Maria [15:33]
Proferte cantica [8:48]
Laudate pueri Dominum [14:16]
Alma redemptoris mater [12:48]
Deborah Cachet (soprano), Reinoud Van Mechelen (tenor), Reinoud Van Mechelen (tenor), Nicolas Achten (baritone), Sönke Tams Freier (bass)
Scherzi Musicali/Nicolas Achten
rec. 2016, Provinciaal Museum Begijnhofkerk, Sint-Truiden, Belgium
Texts and translations included

This is the second volume devoted to Fiocco’s Petits motets: the first was released back in 2009 on MEW 1054. He was the Brussels-born son of an Italian composer, Pietro Antonio Fiocco, who had gravitated to the city and won reknown as de facto director of the local opera house. Joseph-Hector pursued his career in Brussels and Antwerp, before dying at the age of only 38 in his native city. Of the motets he wrote, 22 have survived as fire and loss have accounted for eight motets and six masses, including a Requiem.

His most frequent combination in his motets is for four voices and an accompanying ensemble of two violins, viola, basse de violon and bass continuo. Of his singers the vocal line for the alto is that for the classic French high tenor or haute-contre whilst the tenor itself is written for a high baritone. Insrtrumentally, Fiocco mediates between standard practice as to writing unision for the two fiddles but he takes care to write a versatile and independent part for the viola. Frequently the strings double the voices and the effect is startlingly to heighten the expressive density of the music. Wind instruments – oboe and flute - are also employed. Vocally and instrumentally one detects a cosmopolitan strain to the writing. He was certainly aware of Handel and Vivaldi – indeed his vocal writing is strongly Italianate without being overtly florid. His motets show not merely consistency but many inspired touches that elevate them far beyond that of a jobbing court or church composer.

Vivaldian procedures can be felt in Salve regina where the French, not Italian, tessitura can also be heard. His gift for a two-voiced slow expressive aria with deft accompanying string figures is at its apogee in the Impleat Dominus from Exaudiat te Dominum where the finale movement witnesses incremental support from the lower strings that athletically supports and invigorates the vocal line. The use of the flute in O beatissima virgo Maria has an operatic verdency whilst the expressive harmonies in this work, allied to its strong Italian imprint, give it a sense of rapturous immediacy – a feeling, it must be added, superbly realised by the performers. Scherzi Musicali under Nicolas Achten perform with radiance and the result is vivid music-making.

Whether in the solo violin line in Proferte cantica and the work’s ingenious harmonies and tender melodies, or in the soprano’s ornaments and and ‘galant’ appogiaturas in Laudate pueri Dominum the performances are technically accomplished and powerfully communicative without undue exaggeration.

This most impressively performed and recorded disc comes in hardback form with full texts and translations and excellent notes. There was a time when the only Fiocco in the catalogue was an arrangement of a single piece from a keyboard suite known to fiddlers great and small as ‘Fiocco’s Allegro’. That time, thankfully, is past and it’s thanks to performers such as these and Musique en Wallonie that Fiocco is earning his most deserved place in the musical sun.

Jonathan Woolf



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