Notes 59.2 (2002) 412-419
[Access article in PDF]
Sound Recording Reviews
For information about the scope of this column, consult the headnote in the September 2002 issue (p. 136 of this volume).
Francisco López Capillas. Messe de la Bataille en Nouvelle Espagne. Ensemble Vocal De Profundis/Cristina García Banegas. K617 120, 2001.
Francisco López Capillas was born in 1608 in Mexico City, and studied plainchant and polyphonic composition at the Royal and Pontifical University before assuming the post of chorister and second organist at Puebla Cathedral in 1641. Although most of his significant works were composed toward the end of his life—and thus well into what is generally regarded as the baroque period—the Messe de la Bataille is, like many of his other works, ambiguous in its relationship to the musical innovations that were taking place in the old world at the time. With this Mass, Capillas took a polychoral approach that harked back explicitly to the great masters of Renaissance polyphony, though the work is not entirely innocent of baroque elements. Nor is it lacking in local musical influences —regional percussion instruments and recognizably South American rhythmic patterns contrast with the Latin texts to create a fascinating juxtaposition of old- and new-world flavors. For this recording (the only one currently available of the complete mass), Cristina García Banegas intersperses the five sections of the Ordinary of the Mass with brief works by Capillas's European contemporaries and predecessors, including Orlando di Lasso, Antonio de Cabezón, and Sebastián de Vivanco. The program also includes three motets by the relatively obscure Mexican composer Juan de Lianas, all of which appear to be premiere recordings. The choir's intonation is, unfortunately, not flawless and a certain sourness of tone sometimes detracts from the quiet grandeur of the music, particularly on Vivanco's Christus factus est pro nobis. But this recording is certainly of scholarly value and can be confidently recommended on that basis.
Donne Barocche. Bizzarrie Armoniche; Roberta Invernizzi. Opus 111 OP 30341, 2001.
Subtitled "Women Composers of the Baroque Period," this delightful collection of instrumental chamber works and solo vocal pieces offers compositions by Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Barbara Strozzi, Antonia Bembo, Rosa Giacinta Badalla, Isabella Leonarda, and Bianca Maria Meda, all of them active during the second half of the seventeenth century. The program is nicely varied and includes two violin sonatas, several solo motets, a brief cantata for voice and continuo, a selection from Jacquet de la Guerre's D-Minor Harpsichord Suite, and a few other brief and miscellaneous vocal works, all sung beautifully by soprano Roberta Invernizzi. When the point of a recording is to showcase compositions by women, critical evaluation can be something of a political minefield—lavish praise may be construed as evidence that the reviewer approached the recording with low expectations, whereas a more guarded assessment could be taken as sexist churlishness in the guise of critical distance. In this case, it may be sufficient to say that the works on offer are every bit as expertly written as one might expect from these musicians' more commonly recorded male contemporaries, without offering any particularly startling musical revelations. One does wonder whether all of the noteworthy women composers of the baroque period were working in France and Italy; a similar collection of [End Page 412] works from Spain and Germany would be welcome, especially if performed as beautifully and recorded as cleanly as this one. But this recording will offer solid benefit to libraries not only as a valuable document of the contribution being made by women composers of the late seventeenth century, but also as an indication of the amount of fine music written during that period that still awaits the level of attention it deserves.
Marc-Antoine Charpentier. Messe de Monsieur de Mauroy. Le Concert Spirituel/Hervé Niquet. Glossa GCD 921602, 2002.
For someone responsible for so many large-scale sacred choral works—he composed scores of psalm settings, over two hundred motets and close to two hundred liturgical pieces—Marc-Antoine Charpentier wrote surprisingly few Masses. This is one of...