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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Franzoni, Vespro per la Festa di Santa Barbara

It means virtually nothing that I do not believe I have heard the music of Amante Franzoni (flourished 1605-1630). The Renaissance  (but also the Baroque) period produced many scores of composers who are not regularly performed these days, though many are extraordinarily capable. Judging by the recent release of Franzoni's Vespro per la Festa di Santa Barbara  (Brilliant 95344), he was one of those we should hear more often, certainly.

The blend of chants, sacred choral and instrumental parts to the Vespro is very appealing, especially in this performance by Francesco Moi conducting the amassed forces of Accademia Degli Invaghiti (a nine member choral group with accompanying theorbo and two organs), the Concerto Palatino with their two cornettos and six trombones, and the Cappella Santa Barbara handling the Gregorian Chant passages. It is beautifully a part of the period, inspired, resounding gloriously in the Mantua Cathedral setting.

The chant interludes refresh and set off the moving choral-instrumental movements. As you first listen you hear a brief Resposorium that many will recognize as I did. It is borrowed from Monteverdi's "Vespers for the Virgin Mary."

The music that follows is in keeping with the period and place. Franzoni flourished in the Italian city of Mantua, working for the Gonzaga duchy as early as 1607 and serving as maestro di cappella for the Basilica of Santa Barbara from 1612 through 1630. The Feast of Santa Barbara was the most important religious celebration in Mantua during Franzoni's tenure. She was the city's patron saint and so the vespers in her name allowed Manzoni to create an elaborate musical commemoration in her honor.

The CD captures the music in considerably spirited and in haunting ways. Any early music appreciator will no doubt welcome this music into their world, a fabulous recording at a good price, too!

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