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James Manheim, July 2009

The program represents a fairly deep single-disc sampling of the instrumental music associated with St Mark’s cathedral in Venice around and after the year 1600, played on modern brass instruments rather than the motley crew of devices that a historically authentic performance would use. This so-called “polychoral” music drew its structure from St Mark’s complex internal space, with groups of musicians situated in different parts of the building falling naturally into antiphonal structures. The big name in the repertory is Giovanni Gabrieli, whose Sonata pian e forte, the first piece of music in the Western tradition to include notated dynamics, opens the program. Groups of pieces drawn from Gabrieli’s sets of Symphonie sacrae bookend the program. Unlike the many recordings that simply present Gabrieli’s works in series, this one offers a large section of music by other composers associated with St Mark’s. These broaden the palette of the program as a whole, and hearing such examples as the almost minimal Canzona “La Bottaga” of Cesario Gussago (track 11) attunes the ear to the richness, brilliance, and fluent blend of contrapuntal and homophonic elements that earned Gabrieli his reputation as a master. The future development of instrumental music is hinted at by a single piece, Frescobaldi’s Canzon ottava detta “L’ambitiosa” (track 13). The homogeneous modern brasses aren’t as colorful as period instruments would be, but they enable the listener to follow the many ways the instrument groupings are handled in this music. The release remains a valuable introduction to the polychoral style.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, May 2009

Eighteen works by Giovanni Gabrieli and his contemporaries Gioseffo Guami, Girolamo Frescobaldi and lesser-known masters such as Pietro Lappi, Cesario Guami and Tiburtio Massaino are offered in this splendid sound panorama, recorded in the Basilica of the Hessian town of Ilbenstadt. It sounded magnificent when first released in 1995, and has lost none of its lustre.  Edward Tarr is a hallowed name among brass players, and this disc shows why.

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