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Recording The Gonzaga Band

An invitation to hear members of The Gonzaga Band (singer, theorbo, cornetto and chamber organ) recording 17th C. music by Piccinini, Tarditi and Cima for A Chamber Vespers, at St Jude's on the Hill in Hampstead Garden Suburb, August 2010, was not to be missed.

With its barrel-vaulted and domed ceiling, up to forty feet high, the acoustics of Edwin Lutyens' masterwork are marvellous.

Upon entering my first, and most lasting, impression was hearing Richard Sweeney practising his theorbo in this vast space. The small sound, both near and far, was amazingly sonorous, rich and true - a lesson for the Indian community, which believes that their lutes (vina etc) and finger-drums (tabla and mridangam) would be inaudible in concert without heavy amplification...

I listened from back in the body of the church to Sweeney recording a Piccinini Toccata and sections of Tarditi's Domine ad adiuvandum with soprano Faye Newton.

Then moved into the Control Room to don headphones and follow the meticulous recording process with Chandos engineer Peter Newble and producer Rachel Smith, who has the sharpest of ears and helped the musicians tackling Cima's cornetto sonata of 1610.

Jamie Savan, secure on the not-long-ago perilous cornetto, was supported by Sweeney and Steven Devine, who had to take a little time to meticulously restore the chamber organ's mean-tone tuning every half-session and check for consistency between takes...

Delays were also required from time to time to accommodate passing aeroplanes and workmen's hammers nearby, but the three-day recording of what became Chamber Vespers [below] was completed well within schedule.

A first run-through sounded pretty good to untutored ears and might have passed muster in a live recording. In their collective search for perfection, minutiae of intonation were seized upon and corrected, likewise precise unanimity of attack was insisted upon. Smallest vagaries of tempo which crept in (sometimes from "luxuriating" on particularly beautiful phrases) were eliminated in a long series of takes, numbered and annotated, ready to be edited by Rachel Smith [L].

A fine Chamber Vespers CD is confidently awaited next year, to follow The Gonzaga Band's debut disc Sacred Garland, welcomed last year.

Peter Grahame Woolf


Orazio TARDITI Adriano BIANCHERI Alessandro PICCININI Francesco PETROBELLI Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI Orazio TARDITI Girolamo Alessandro FRESCOBALDI Natale MONFERRATO Archangelo CROTTI Giovanni Felice SANCES Adriano BANCHIERI Maurizio CAZZATTI

The Gonzaga Band (Faye Newton (soprano), Jamie Savan (cornett), Richard Sweeney (theorbo), Steven Devine (harpsichord, organ)) Clare Wilkinson (mezzo), Gawain Glenton (cornett) rec. London, 4-6 August 2010


Released nearer two years after the recording session (see above) but well worth the wait.

This is an exceptional Chandos CD, one of the best of rarer 17 C Italian music I have heard. Some of the composers appear with little background knowledge, but their music is uniformly of a stadard to match the "greats" of the times.

It is edited (a big job, as indicated above) and must be seen as a collaaboration between Jamie Savan project (he supplies the excellent notes) and Rachel Smith and the Chandos recording team. The sequence is ideal, and the whole thing is so rich that it ought not to be taken stright through; I split it into three listening periods and am keen to hear it all again. You'd never guess the hazards during the recording days. The acoustic contributes a share, especially in a bloom in Faye Newton's soprano which has a lovely character.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For full track details and a more expert, specialist opinion (with reservations which had not occured to me) see MusicWeb : "This repertoire is much more exciting than the performances suggest - - the performances are not really that captivating - - too restrained."

Dietrich Buxtehude VII Suonate, Op.2

1 Suonata I, BuxWV 259 7:24 in B flat major 2 Suonata II, BuxWV 260 11:56 in D major 3 Suonata III, BuxWV 261 10:35 in G minor 4 Suonata IV, BuxWV 262 7:11 in C minor 5 Suonata V, BuxWV 263 8:45 in A major 6 Suonata VI, BuxWV 264 9:17 in E major 7 Suonata VII, BuxWV 265 7:41 in F major

Purcell Quartet Catherine Mackintosh/Catherine Weiss violin Richard Boothby - viola da gamba Robert Woolley - harpsichord


This second disc (Chandos has already released Op 2 of this intégrale, rather similar) is as big a contrast with that mixed programme reviewed above as can be imagined.

The notes are dry and scholarly; the illustrations awful save for the fanciful one I've chosen; the playing is sound, never at all exciting; one for EM specialists and the library maybe, but not recommended for ordinary record collectors.