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The name Gabrieli conjures up images of resplendent ceremony in St Mark’s Venice, but this outstanding disc offers a very different perspective on Andrea, the elder of the two Gabrielis associated with the basilica. It includes 14 six- or seven-part motets and the Missa Vexilla Regis, all a cappella works composed in the stile antico. Probably composed for low Mass celebrated in a side chapel in St Mark’s, it is music almost certainly performed, as here, with single voices per part. The motets are drawn from a collection of sacred and secular ‘concertos’ by Andrea and his nephew Giovanni published in 1587, two years after the death of Andrea. Although contrapuntal, the settings are largely syllabic, with melisma mostly kept to a minimum. The result is a series of wonderfully expressive miniatures, with transparent textures that allow the frequent madrigalian gestures to make their impact. At the same time the love of colour, the contrasts of texture, and occasional outbreak of exuberance all bear the mark of a thoroughly Venetian composer.

The performances by the mixed ensemble are quite simply outstanding, beautifully tuned and balanced, with no single voice dominating and some lovely singing in such passages as the remarkable ‘Crucifixus’ in the Credo of the Mass, set for soprano and alto. Latin texts and scores are available online.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica


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