*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Music: Cavalli and Rossi (Musica Antiqua Rotherhithe)

by
03 March 2023

Fiona Hook hears Italian early music in a church in south-east London

iStock

LAUNCHED in 2016, Musica Antica Rotherhithe performs rarely heard 16th- and 17th-century music. Its latest offering was a programme consisting of a Requiem by the 17th century Italian composer, Cavalli, and a heartbreakingly mournful penitential cantata by his contemporary Luigi Rossi: two major figures in the generation of musicians who represent the stylistic transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque.

Francesco Cavalli (1602-76) sang at San Marco in Venice, and undoubtedly studied under Monteverdi. He was best known in his lifetime for his 41 operas, the acquisition of a wealthy wife enabling him to spend time on a form that then, as now, was costly and risky to stage. The eight-part Requiem was written for his own funeral, with instructions to perform it twice a year in his memory, as long as funds permitted.

Rossi (1597-1653) studied in Naples, and spent most of his career in Rome, writing sacred cantatas for wealthy patrons. His Disperar Di Se Stesso (Despair of oneself) was intended for private devotion at home rather than church use. The solo verses, replete with private pain, alternate repentance with a confidence in God’s mercy,

An intimate evening atmospherically illuminated by candles began with Cavalli, Rossi’s cantata sandwiched between the Kyrie and the Dies Irae. The eight singers formed two different four-part choirs, singing to each other as they might have done in church. In the Cavalli, nicely projected solo passages alternated with skilful blending as they explored the multifarious textures of a work that had hints of opera in its strange chromatics and moments of declamation. They finished with Ghequetst Ben Ic Van Binnen, a 16th-century setting by Ludovicus Episcopus of a 13th-century Dutch devotional poem, probably the first time it’s been sung in four centuries.

It is worth listing all the singers: the unrelated, but beautifully homogeneous sopranos Emily and Milly Atkinson; the countertenors Tristam Cooke and Mark Williams; the tenors Maxim Meshkvichev and Oliver Doyle, who directed with discreet hand signals while singing; and the basses Joachim Sabbat and Alex Fratley, who at times went down to an astonishing low E. Everything was underpinned by a continuo team whose lack of keyboard added a delicacy to the line: Jonatan Bougt’s theorbo and Harry Buckoke’s viola da gamba.

Holy Trinity, Rotherhithe, was an excellent choice. Designed by Thomas Ford, it is a small 1950s church, as attractive outside as in. The interior is light, with a distinctive curved ceiling, and acoustically perfect. A mural of Christ leaving the cross in triumph, painted by Hans Feibusch in soft shades of terracotta and sea green, covers the wall behind the altar. It is to be hoped that other musicians will soon realise what a perfect venue this is.

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards

 

Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available

 

SAVE THE DATE

Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website

 

ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

 

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)