This selection of church music by Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665) is taken from collections published throughout the composer’s career. From the First Book of Motets, which appeared in Venice when the composer was not yet 30 years old, to the Third Book of Psalms and Masses, the disc presents a stimulating conspectus of one of the most imaginative Venetian composers of his generation.
The great Monteverdi is the obvious point of reference among composers of his place and time, Merula covered all the musical genres of the time and made a significant contribution to the evolution of 17th century music. A harmonically refined composer with solid mastery of counterpoint, at once whimsical, modern and rhythmically brilliant in his writing, Merula stands in the highest rank among Italian composers of the early Baroque. This recording, which focuses on his sacred works for voice and instruments displays the full wealth of his musical creativity and the surprising variety of the stylistic and formal strategies he employed in order to set the standard liturgical texts with a constantly fresh approach.
All the motets and psalm-settings here illustrate Merula’s distinctive approach to word-painting, including highly refined and experimental approaches which alter the metric flow of the music in surprising, but elastic and natural-sounding ways. He thoroughly explored the gamut of expressive possibilities, ranging from madrigal-like tenderness to the most sober, oratorical intonation of the sacred text; without disdaining, where appropriate, sheer vocal virtuosity.
Such virtuosity is conveyed here by the Italian early-music ensemble Il Demetrio, led from the violin by Maurizio Schaivo. The vocal lines are sung one to voice to a part by five Italian singers with considerable experience and mastery of the Italian early Baroque style. All round, it’s an impeccably stylish disc.
Tarquinio Merula (1595-1665) was one of the most important composers of the Italian Early-Baroque. Active in all musical genres of his time he served the largest part of his life as maestro di cappella of the Duomo of Cremona.
A harmonically refined composer with solid mastery of counterpoint (as his rich and well-known production for keyboard and instrumental ensembles displays), at once whimsical, modern and brilliant as far as the rhythmical/metrical side of his writing is concerned, Merula was certainly of the highest calibre among Italian composers of the early Baroque. This recording, which focuses on his sacred works for voice and instruments (masses excluded) displays the full wealth of his musical creativity and the surprising variety of the stylistic and formal strategies he employed in order to set the standard liturgical texts with a constantly fresh approach.
The sacred Motets on this new recording are performed by 5 Italian vocal soloists, while the rich continuo is played by the Ensemble Demetrio, consisting of violins, viola, cello, dulciana, viola da gamba, double bass, theorbo and organ.
The booklet contains excellent liner notes in English and Italian, written by a scholar.