Star of the Sea: music from Venice and the Italian Renaissance

Sunday 17 November, 7:30pm
Holy Trinity Church, Long Melford

Booking information: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/mkctw/star-of-the-sea/e-jmxbyb

For this concert, we are joined once again by the instrumentalists I Musici della Contessa - a small ensemble comprising sackbuts, cornett and curtal.

The maritime republic of Venice played a unique role in the music of the Italian Renaissance and early Baroque. From the songs of the gondoliere to the splendour of the sacred works sung in St Mark’s basilica, music was at the heart of the city’s culture.

This programme centres on the mass setting ‘Bell’ Amfitrit Altera’ by Orlando di Lasso, thought to be based on a popular song celebrating Amphitrite, goddess of the sea. It may have been written for the annual Ascension Day ceremony ‘Lo Sposalizio’, in which a wedding ring was thrown into the water to celebrate the symbolic marriage of the city of Venice to the sea.

While Lassus never worked in Venice, many of his works were published there, and his affinity with its music no doubt stemmed from a visit in 1562 by Andrea Gabrieli, founding father of the Venetian school of composers, who with his nephew Giovanni Gabrieli built a Europe-wide reputation for the sheer magnificence of polychoral works written for performance under the gold mosaic domes of St Mark’s. In the style which became known as ‘cori spezzati’, split choirs were stationed around the church singing antiphonally, often with instrumental accompaniment. This theatrical approach to musical sonority paved the way for the development of the Baroque style in the music of Claudio Monteverdi, whose Ave Maris Stella - a characteristically Venetian celebration of the Virgin Mary as ‘star of the sea’ - comes at the culmination of his Vespers of 1610.

In the glorious acoustic of Holy Trinity Long Melford, Cambridge Renaissance Voices recreate this Venetian soundworld with the sackbuts and cornetts of I Musici della Contessa.


Sacred Music from Renaissance Italy, 18 May

Saturday 18 May, 7:30pm
Palestrina, Croce, Lotti and more

St Mary & St Nicholas Church, Wilton

Tickets £13 in advance (£15 on the door)
Book online

In this concert, Cambridge Renaissance Voices (hailed for ‘beautifully controlled’ performances full of ‘understanding and passion’), bring together some of the great choral masterpieces from across the spectrum of the Italian Renaissance.

Italy’s status as ‘cradle of the Renaissance’ was as vital to the history of music as for the visual arts. From the 15th century on, many of Europe’s greatest composers travelled from France, the Netherlands and Spain, to work for aristocratic and religious patrons, among them the powerful Sforza, Gonzaga, Este and Borgia dynasties.

Josquin des Prez worked for much of his life in Milan, Rome and Ferrara; and Victoria (or Vittoria, as he became known) had two prolific decades in Rome. Alongside these musical immigrants, Italy’s own composers – above all Palestrina - were crucial in shaping the development of sacred polyphony. Palestrina’s serenely beautiful ‘Missa Papae Marcelli’, written in honour of the brief reign of Pope Marcellus II, became the definitive Papal Coronation Mass and was credited with having rescued choral music from the threat of being banished altogether from the church at the Council of Trent in 1562-3.

 After Palestrina, the centre of gravity began to shift northwards to Venice, where the ‘stile antico’, still predominant in the music of Giovanni Croce and Andrea Gabrieli, eventually gave way to a more dramatic style in the work of Monteverdi and Antonio Lotti, moving polyphonic choral music into the Baroque idiom, increasingly favouring the theatrical power of dissonance and emotional affect.