Archive for Profeti della Quinta

Best of the Year 2013

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 28, 2013 by Craig Zeichner

NY Polyphony
One of the advantages of not having to regularly write reviews – like I did for my Ariama job or Early Music America magazine — is having the freedom to listen to whatever I want to. But these three are by artists/ensembles who I would listen to any time/all the time. So the gold, silver and bronze medals go to:

New York Polyphony
Times Go By Turns

Times Go By Turns is a masterpiece, a superb album of English classics by Byrd, Tallis, Plummer and contemporary composers. The music by the contemporaries — Richard Rodney Bennett, Andrew Smith, and my personal favorite, Gabriel Jackson complements the early music perfectly. For me, Times Go By Turns achieves the near impossible; it takes familiar works — Masses for four voices by Byrd and Tallis — and makes you hear them in new ways. Times Go By Turns has been nominated for a Grammy, if there is any justice in this wicked world, New York Polyphony wins. I play this  one endlessly, easily the best album of the year.

Profeti Della Quinta
Il Montavano Hebreo

Centuries ago I worked for a record label that produced recordings of music by the Mantuan Jewish composer Salomone Rossi. The best recordings of Rossi’s music that I’ve heard are by the Galilee-based vocal ensemble Profeti della Quinta. Their new album on the sonically stunning Linn Records label is Il Montavano Hebreo, a collection of Rossi’s instrumental music — the guy invented the trio sonata — devotional music and Italian madrigals. The group is coming to New York in January. If you are New Yorkers, don’t miss them!

Stile Antico
The Phoenix Rising
Stile Antico keeps rolling along. It’s pretty rare when an ensemble just knocks out one mind-bending album after another, especially in the rarefied world of Renaissance polyphony. Not since the early days of the Tallis Scholars have I heard Tudor church music sung with such warmth and precision. Stile Antico, like New York Polyphony, are superb programmers too. Their program is drawn from Oxford University Press’s classic Tudor Church Music collection, but programmed with a careful ear. The Phoenix Rising features Byrd’s magnificent Mass for five voices with motets and anthems by Gibbons, Morley, Tallis, Taverner, and White placed between movements of the mass.

Best of 2009

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2009 by Craig Zeichner

Lots of early music recordings came my way in 2009. Here are my favorites for the year.

CD of the year

More Divine Than Human, Music from the Eton Choirbook
The Choir of Christ Church, Oxford
Stephen Darlington, director
(Avie Records)
This is how the Eton Choirbook was intended to be heard.

J. S.Bach: Orchestral Suites for a Young Prince
Ensemble Sonnerie
Monica Huggett, violin and director
(Avie Records)
Refreshing new takes on old favorites.

J. S. Bach: Preludi ai corali
Quartetto Italiano di Viole da Gamba; Tölzer Knabenchor
(Winter & Winter GmbH)
Gorgeous strings blending with treble choir.

G.F. Handel: Clori, Tirsi e Fileno
Roberta Invernizzi, Yetzabel Arias Fernández, sopranos; Romina Basso, alto
La Risonanza
Fabio Bonizzoni, director
(Glossa Music)
The newest release in the brilliantly performed complete Handel cantata series.

Nicola Popora: Arias
Karina Gauvin, soprano
Il Complesso Barocco
Alan Curtis, director
(ATMA Classique)
Perhaps this is the recording that finally puts Gauvin at the top of the soprano heap.

Salomone Rossi: The Song of Solomon and Instrumental Music
Profeti Della Quinta
Ensemble Muscadin
(Pan Classics)
It’s about time an ensemble finally made a truly excellent recording of Rossi’s sacred music.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Messa per il santissimo natale
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Messa di s. emidio

Concerto Italiano
Rinaldo Alessandrini, director
Two major additions to the repertoire and nobody performs this music better than Alessandrini and crew.

Song of Songs
Stile Antico
(Harmonia Mundi)
All the buzz about Stile Antico is true—reminds of the records the Tallis Scholars used to make before all of their recordings started to sound the same.

Georg Philipp Telemann: Telemann and the Baroque Gypsies
Ensemble Caprice
Matthias Maute, recorder and director
Sensational performances by Maute and company in a lively program.

200 Years of Music at Versailles
Various artists
(Centre Musical de Baroque de Versailles)
A miraculous collection. Would have liked some music by the great clavecinists, but easily the greatest survey of the French Baroque available.

Salamone Rossi, Hebreo

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by Craig Zeichner
Pages from Rossi's Hashirim Asher Lishlomo

Pages from Rossi's Hashirim Asher Lishlomo

As Don Harrán points out in his fascinating book Salamone Rossi, Jewish Musician in Late Renaissance Mantua, “There were Jewish musicians before Salamone Rossi, but Rossi was the first to leave an indelible imprint on European music history as a composer.”

I first encountered Rossi’s music when I was marketing director for the PGM Recordings record label. Gabe Weiner, the label’s late and lamented founder, produced two recordings of selections from Rossi’s Hashirím ashér lishlomó (The Song of Solomon). The works were sung by the New York Baroque, a pick-up group of mostly New York-based singers under the direction of Eric Milnes. We marketed the records in every conceivable place, from Jewish newspapers to such magazines as Tikkun and Reform Judaism. The recordings were huge successes and were some of the biggest sellers by an indie record label. We also took a fair amount of heat from purists who were outraged that women’s voices were employed on the recording. Can’t please everybody I guess.

Wish I could have found a larger image!

Wish I could have found a larger image!

Rossi (c.1570-c.1630) was born in Mantua and was employed as a freelance composer and performer at the Gonzaga court. Jewish musicians in Mantua were frequently employed as performers at weddings, feasts and other occasions. Some of Rossi’s contemporaries in Mantua were Giaches de Wert, Ludovico Viadana, and Claudio Monteverdi and Rossi knew their music well. It’s entirely likely that Monteverdi and Rossi knew each other since both were violinists and both were employed at court.

Typical for his day, Rossi wrote Italian-texted madrigals and canzonettas, but it’s his instrumental and sacred music that are the focus of an excellent new recording by the Galilee-based vocal ensemble Profeti della Quinta and the instrumental ensemble Muscadin on the Pan Classics record label.

This is the one to get

This is the one to get

I wasn’t very familiar with Rossi’s instrumental works and there’s a healthy sampling of his revolutionary trio sonatas (a form which he pretty much invented) on this recording. Rossi’s trio sonatas are scored for two upper voices and continuo and even though he designates the upper voices as violins on the title pages of these works, the ensemble Muscadin adds recorder and cornett to the mix, so the upper voices are combinations of a wind instrument with violin or two wind instruments—it’s a nice effect and really underscores the flash and fire in the music. There are some beautiful moments here. The eloquent violin playing of Leila Schayegh finds an expressive foil in Corina Marti’s recorder in the Sonata seconda from Rossi’s 3rd book of sonatas (1622). I love the sound of the cornett and the ensemble’s Josué Meléndez Peláez shines when paired with Marti in the Sinfonia seconda from that same 3rd book. Intelligent and tasteful continuo work is heard throughout.

Orthodoxy prohibited polyphonic music in the synagogue but there was a liberal movement who yearned to bring music in praise of God to the service, following the example of King Solomon’s First Temple. The movement was led by the dedicatee of the published edition of Rossi’s Hashirím ashér lishlomó, the wealthy and progressive Moses Sullam, and the colorful and influential Rabbi Leon da Modena (who wrote the preface to the edition). The music was in all likelihood intended for use in the home, weddings and the synagogue where it would be sung by a male ensemble.

Here’s Profeti della Quinta singing Rossi’s Al Naharot Bavel:

Since any resemblance to the popular secular styles of the day would be a problem, so Rossi adopts the stile antico for these sacred gems. Rossi takes a Palestrina-like care in setting text, so every word is comprehensible and there is little repetition of material. One interesting bit: Hebrew text is read from right to left, so Rossi had to reverse the word order so that the individual words still read right to left while the words are set under the notes in the usual left to right fashion!

 The performances by Profeti della Quinta are revelations. Here’s the precision and tonal beauty that this music deserves and it makes this CD the essential Rossi recording to add to your collection. I only hope Profeti Della Quinta go on to record more Rossi.

The CD is available everywhere or directly from Qualiton Imports. Since you are spending money, you should also pick up Don Harrán’s book:


and while you are book shopping, try to find Leon da Modena’s fascinating The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: