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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Striggio Mass rediscovered

Sorry, long time, no blog!

Interesting story about a rediscovered Striggio Mass. Some excerpts from the article:
Alessandro Striggio's 1566 mass, performed by 40 choristers, sees voices, strings and brass meld into a jaw-dropping harmony.

The mass was first performed in the 16th century, touring Europe, before being lost in the mists of time.

Several years ago, the work, Missa sopra Ecco sì beato giorno, was rediscovered in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, where it had been miscatalogued. In 2007, it was given its first modern performance at London's BBC Proms. Now, a new recording of the work has made its debut on the pop charts at number 68, beating the likes of Bon Jovi, George Harrison and Eminem. It is extremely rare for core classical music releases to appear in the British pop charts. The recording is number two in the classical listings and there are further plans for a live touring performance to coincide with the London 2012 Olympics.

"I think people are interested, for starters, because of freak aspect of it," said Robert Hollingworth, 44, conductor and founder of vocal group I Fagiolini, which recorded the work.
. . . 
Striggio is believed to have left copies of his work in several of the places where he toured it, including the courts of Albrecht V in Munich and Charles IX in France. Because of copying errors on the original manuscript and card catalogue, when the French version eventually ended up in the Bibliothèque Nationale, it was attributed erroneously to "Alessandro Strusco" with 40 voices being altered to "four voices". The work was recovered by British musicologist Davitt Moroney, who also conducted the 2007 Proms performance.

The release also features a version of Thomas Tallis's Spem in alium, which is believed to have been inspired by Striggio's works. Tallis lived between 1505 and 1585 and was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. That piece is known for being incredibly technically advanced for its time.
. . .

"That our group of musicians got it right first time is additionally impressive. With the surround sound it is really fantastic. It can be an unpractical thing to perform live,  but in this way you can appreciate its intimate parts, at the level of sacred conversation, as well as its grand scale."
. . . 
Universal Music Group's Decca Records used five choirs to record the album in Tooting's All Saints Church last year, employing authentic period instruments including a lirone, a precursor to the cello, recorders, and lutes. Mr Hollingworth said instruments took the place of some of the vocal parts, which was an accepted practice at the time.

The album also went to number one in the iTunes chart on the day of its release.
Back in 1992 I conducted the Striggio 40-part motet which is thought to be the work that inspired Tallis' Spem in alium with the Portland Symphonic Choir called, Many Voices in Early Song, while Bruce Brown was on sabbatical. It included Alessandro Striggio's Ecce beatam lucem; Robert Carver's O bone Jesu; Giovanni Gabrieli's Gloria; Monteverdi's Laudate Dominum terzo; four madrigals by Luca Marenzio; and Tallis' Spem in alium.

Bruce was originally planning to conduct the program, which I only slightly changed. It was an interesting program to do with a large symphonic choir (some works, such as the Carver and Marenzio, were done with a smaller ensemble; the Tallis was done one-per-part until the big tutti's) which didn't normally do music from this period. A challenge, to be sure!

I've done the Tallis two other times (and will surely do it again!): for Peter Hallock's 40th anniversary with the Compline Choir at St. Mark's Cathedral in Seattle and with my PLU Choir of the West on my final tour with them of Scandinavia in 2001. It's a magnificent work!

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