Notes & Reviews:
Towards the end of the 16th century, Emperor Rudolf II moved the Habsburg capital from Vienna to Prague. The arts-loving monarch invited to his court the finest contemporary artists, thus turning the provincial city into a culture centre of Renaissance Europe and affording it a luster comparable with that of royal residences in France and Spain. The Emperor also brought to Prague his musicians. The Rudolfine orchestra performed various duties - in addition to fulfilling the task of representing the court at ceremonies, it was also charged with attending to liturgical music. The core of this recording is the Missa Confitebor tibi Domine for eight voices by the Rudolfine Kapellmeister Philippe de Monte (1521 - 1603), the last of the great creators of Franco-Flemish polyphony. The album affords the listener a unique insight into the musical world surrounding Rudolf II, a world as beautiful and refined as the Emperor's extensive collection of paintings, sculptures and other artifacts. The young vocal ensemble Cappella Mariana present a repertoire typical of their focus - discovering and performing lesser-known Renaissance polyphonic pieces, often giving their modern-time premieres. The vocal parts are delivered by Hana Blaíková, Barbora Sojková, Tomá Král and other renowned singers.
The early music ensemble Cappella Mariana add veracity to that last part of that statement with their latest release. It includes works by court musicians Alessandro Orolgio, Phillippe de Monte, and Jacob Regnart. All three wrote in a similar high renaissance style, with flowing counterpoint effortlessly weaving melodic lines in and out of one another.
Almost all the works on this release are sacred, giving the program an expansive, yet serene overall sound. The Cappella Mariana performs these pieces with precision, maintaining a transparent ensemble sound that is almost sensual in nature.
The program includes works by Palestrina and Orlando di Lasso, composers who were also performed in the imperial court. The music of Rudolph's own composers compares favorably to these acknowledged masterworks.
Rudolph II was a contemporary of Elizabeth I, and like the Virgin Queen, was indirectly responsible for a flourishing of musical creativity. In my opinion, Praga Magna is a beautiful recording of some unjustly neglected music. And I enjoyed every minute of it.
Submitted on 03/26/15 by RGraves321