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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
A New Venetian Coronation, 1595
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 7 June 2012
Few early music enthusiasts - or indeed classical fans in general - will fail to twig that this is a remake of the Gabrieli Consort's brilliantly successful "A Venetian Coronation" of 1990. Just in case it needs to be said, that recording was a conjectural reconstruction, or re-creation, of the music performed in the Basilica of St. Mark's, Venice, to celebrate the coronation of Doge Marino Grimani in April 1595. The music is based around a polychoral mass by Andrea Gabrieli, with additional motets by Andrea and his nephew Giovanni and several instrumental items. Most of the vocal pieces chosen for this new recording are as on the earlier disc, but there are some changes in the instrumental works.

The approach, however, is somewhat different. This is immediately evident in the opening track of the disc, recreating the sound of the procession in the Piazza San Marco, with bells and a constant hum of voices from the crowd; and in these magical few moments we are irresistibly transported back in time to late renaissance Venice. Instruments - first shawms, then trumpets and drums - are heard above the general hubbub of sound, and other signs of celebration too; and then we proceed into the Basilica for the Mass and its accompanying chants, organ intonations and canzoni. Andrea Gabrieli's multi-choir mass movements consist of Kyrie, Gloria and Sanctus-Benedictus, beginning with 5 voices and varying up to the 16 voices in 4 choirs of the Gloria. It is all magnificent music - beautifully sung here, and very differently from the earlier recording. The all-male solo singers sound marvellous with their clear, ringing tones, and the integration of grandeur with intimacy is beautifully managed by both performers and sound engineers.

The three instrumental canzoni by Giovanni Gabrieli are played with energy, agility and feeling. I especially liked the beautiful 15-part canzona (track 19) to which these brilliant wind players bring both solemnity and tenderness, sounding as if they really mean it. Of the remaining vocal pieces, Andrea's "O sacrum convivium" (23) sounds quite wonderful, characterised by the sensitivity and profound sincerity that are among the greatest assets of McCreesh's singers. Giovanni's 10-part "Deus qui beatum Marcum" (15) is magnificent also, as is above all his concluding "Omnes gentes à 16", providing a superbly sonorous climax with the musicians all singing and playing their hearts out.

All this offers a fascinating comparison with the earlier recording, and in the booklet notes the conductor explains the developments, both historical and technical, in his and the ensemble's approach to the music. For me, the great assets of the new recording are the even greater brilliance and virtuosity of the players and singers, and the subtleties of the more intimate moments; there is grandeur where appropriate, but it's the delicate shades of colour and expression that really strike home in this music.

The booklet notes are excellent, and there are three superb photos of the performers at work. Although we get a full list of the musicians, I could have done with a bit more detailed information on who is playing and singing in each work. The almost-plain white cover of the digipack, in common with others on the Gabrielis' Winged Lion label, is very tasteful, but I wonder if their fans may not find this style a bit dull after a few more releases. A monochrome design imprinted on that white cover, an engraving of some kind appropriate to the music within, would look pretty good and might liven things up a bit while still preserving the label's identity.

After all, there is nothing dull about this music or its performance here. For me this new Venetian Coronation programme represents the ultimate expression of the idea of historically informed performance (H.I.P. for short) and I would go as far as to challenge the cohorts (or at least conturbenii) of determined anti-HIPsters to listen to this disc - preferably on a good sound system and after first checking their hearing aids - and then still say it's boring without privately choking on their words. Above all, this is a splendid tribute to the pioneering music of the two Gabrielis from their brilliant namesake ensemble. If you already know and love the earlier Coronation disc, I believe you will find a challenging and very informative comparison in the new one; and if you don't, I would say this VC2 is the one to go for.
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on 7 June 2012
This new version of the work that made the Gabrieli and Paul McCreesh so famous is different from that pioneering version in a number of ways. The opening really invokes the carnival atmosphere of the election of a popular Doge complete with the ringing of bells and crackle of fireworks. The smaller forces make for a clearer and more intimate feel appropriate to an area which was a relatively compact and compartmentalised private chapel. The virtuosity is as we would expect of this renowned group and at times the playing is just spine-tingling in its virtuosity. Yet there is also a spaciousness that enhances the solemnity of the occasion. As the Times said after an earlier live performance: "May the Gabrieli live forever in glory!"
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on 22 July 2012
The music is wonderful and the recording is superb. I felt as if I were actually there in Venice at the Doge's coronation. The instrumentalists are excellent and the singing is outstanding - beautiful, sensitive, balanced.
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on 12 October 2012
This is one of the most exciting sounds I have heard for a long time, and so beautifully packaged I'm recommending to everyone and not just the usual early-music enthusiasts. A friend who bought it at my suggestion said the only thing missing was the smell of incense - so perhaps a scratch'n'sniff cover is something to consider for the future. Joking apart, it's my CD of the year.
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on 13 June 2013
The original 1990 HIP recording was groundbreaking. This takes the aesthetic and praxis to extremes but does so in a way that results in a likeable, engaging and intelligent performance. I'm fonder of the original having grown up with it but this is a worthy addition to any collection.
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on 11 April 2013
Full of pomp and ceremony. A wonderful evocation of what such a ceremony might have sounded like. Close your eyes and imagine the scene as you listen. Maybe someone could do a DVD of aceremony like this.
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on 28 February 2013
If you want a reliably good idea what a Venetian Coronation would have sounded like then this is the disc for you. Wonderful singing and very atmospheric music. A lovely disc.
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on 7 July 2012
Like one of your other reviewers,I bought this cd wondering how the original could be bettered.The simple answer is that it can't.The quality of the recording is slightly better,but the singers,although of a high standard,don't quite reach the superb heights of the original.I also prefer the organ pieces of the old recording,with Timothy Roberts,to the new one.
It is probably worth listening to the new recording,but overall,I think I'll stick to my old one.
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on 2 July 2012
For me, this is a recording with mixed fortunes. And I say that with a heavy heart as the Gabrieli have, down the years, given us some outstanding recordings.

The instrumental playing has improved from what was an extremely high standard before. The cornet playing in particular is sublime.

However, the singing is for me no better than the previous one and dare I say it, is probably not as good. Take for example, the very first opening piece for singers, or to be more precise, singer. It starts with the Kyrie but for some inexplicable reason we only hear "kyrie" some of the time. At others, it is "yrie". For me, this is pretty basic stuff for any choir, let alone a professional one. Words do matter. How was it missed in the production process? In other areas, I do not believe the singers were that convincing.

The singers do redeem themselves in other pieces (the motets work particularly well with one to a part for instance). But, this is not the choir with stunning (and then, budding) soloists such as Charles Daniels and David Hurley. Whether it was luck to have secured such a choir then I don't know. But my view is that music has not been so well served from the singers in this one.
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on 26 May 2013
I was very impressed with the 1st issue of the subject and was a little disappointed with the current disc. I found it a little tedious with too much chanting and not enough choral singing. There is a rich pool of music to choose from and more could be made of from that treasure.
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