Daphne Ensemble / Schola Cantorum di Santa Giustina

Ludovico Balbi: Psalmi ad Vesperas Canedi per Annum (Vol. 1)

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One would have to look hard to find a composer more forgotten than sixteenth century maestro Ludovico Balbi, who operated on the periphery of the high Renaissance style among several important churches in Italy and whose works were published by Gardano. Judging from Tactus' Ludovico Balbi: Psalm ad Versperas Calendi Per Annum, Vol. 1, Feltre 1594, reveals a composer who was writing in an idiom that might be termed "Palestrina-lite," and Balbi is known to have rejected all incipient forms of the manneristic "second practice" that began to emerge toward the end of his career. In some cases, listening to conservative late Renaissance composers can be rewarding; however in this one, the rewards are indeed hard to locate. The music is taken not from a Gardano print, but a unique manuscript in Feltre cathedral dated 1594 containing numerous settings of the Magnificat and movements for Vespers services; Tactus assures us that this disc is the first of three exposing all of the music in that dusty volume, in conjunction with its publication by Pro Music Studium. The program is broken up by a selection of organ pieces by Giovanni Gabrieli as played by Stefano Lorenzetti, who turns in stilted, clunky, and rather vapid readings of them. The Schola Cantorum di Santa Giustina and its satellite ensemble, Schola Gregoriana, are placed in widely divergent points in the hall; the Schola Gregoriana provides the chant incipits and the Schola Cantorum Balbi's settings of them. The Gregoriana is situated so far back in the hall that you can hardly hear them, whereas by comparison, when the Schola Cantorum starts singing you might wish you could hear them less; tempi are sluggish, the performances are one-dimensional, and the male altos are flat and unattractive sounding. There remains a lot of unrecorded Renaissance music that deserves recording, but this one is definitely an exception, and unless your devotion to sixteenth century Italian music is absolute, Tactus' Ludovico Balbi: Psalm ad Versperas Calendi Per Annum, Vol. 1, Feltre 1594. is likely one to pass on.

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