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Bonifazio Graziani (or Gratiani) (1604–5 to 1664) will be unfamiliar to most of us. A priest and composer from a family of musicians, he was brought up in Marino, near Rome, later becoming maestro di capella at the Jesuit church in Rome. The survival of much of his output, all of it sacred, is owed to his brother, who oversaw its posthumous publication. Opus 25, motets rather than cantatas, was the last of these publications, appearing in 1678 as Musiche sacre e morali. It consists of 14 motets for one to four voices and organ, though the notes say continuo. The present recording alternates between no fewer than six continuo instruments, including – incongruously – a sackbut.

The performances by the US-based Consortium Carissimi are unquestionably well intentioned and I’d love to endorse them more than I feel able to. Unfortunately, none of the seven singers employed has more than a moderately pleasing voice, while the articulation of ornamentation too frequently leaves much to be desired. Most damaging of all is a seeming lack of understanding and interest in realising the affetti of the often highly-charged texts, particularly in the two recitative dialogues that open the programme. This is a fatal flaw in this repertoire, one hardly redeemed by some unpretentiously charming singing in the more cantabile Marian and Christmas motets that come later.

Brian Robins Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Early Music Today, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing