© 2015 David’s Review Corner
David Denton David's Review Corner, November 2015 Even among the Early Music admirers, the 17th century Italian, Bonifazio Graziani will be largely unknown, though in his lifetime he was a major church composer. That fame extended to a commission by Pope Innocent X to compose appropriate music for the ‘most holy year’ of 1650, and, unlike many other church composers of the time, his music was subsequently published. Having studied theology, he spent much of his life in Rome as an ordained priest, sharing his time between ecclesiastical duties and that of the maestro di cappella for La Chiesa del Gesu. It was a position of considerable importance, and he would have been obliged to produce a flow of motets and music for special occasions. That he, and his church compatriots, met those exhausting demands with works of such high quality was remarkable. Just turn to track 5, the short, Quid est hoc, to find music that falls so attractively on the ear, while the more extended ‘oratorios’, Adae Oratorium and Filli Prodigi Oratorium—which appear to date from 1650—were more complex and contrasting in their content, both drawing their text from biblical sources, and inducing some exploratory harmonies for the period. As to the performance, Garrick Comeaux, the founder of the North American group, Consortium Carissimi, writes in the booklet notes, “we make no pretence of a historical reconstruction”. That is apparent by the use of female voices in place of boy sopranos, which will considerably change the texture, and it goes a stage further with their use of a marked vibrato when a pure tone was required. That is somewhat mitigated by the ‘authentic’ sounds from the instrumental group of archlute, theorbo, viola da gamba, sackbut, harpsichord and chamber organ. A reverberant church acoustic is ideal, and it is gratifying to encounter seven world premiere recordings sincerely presented.