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The plague struck Rome in 1656. Commissioned by the Pope to petition God to spare the city, Orazio Benevoli’s Missa In angustia pestilentiae for 16 voices and organ receives its world premiere recording from the Cappella Musicale Santa Maria in Campitelli in a real ‘live’ liturgy. The febrile intensity of both music and performance impresses, even when enthusiastically wayward, with magnificence and stirring devotional fervour. Alessandro Stradella plagued 17th-century Rome with a series of sexual peccadillos and an attempt to swindle the church; nevertheless, he found patrons whose commissions included the oratorio Santa Pelagia, a story which enabled the so-called ‘Caravaggio of music’ to explore louche themes under a thin veil of piety. Ensemble Mare Nostrum revivify it with tremendous colour, emotional depth, absolutely glorious solo singing, Roman dialect pronunciation, and a superbly immediate recording.

REBECCA TAVENER Read the full review on Agora Classica

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