Giovanni Battista Fills in Historical Gap

The liner notes for this release make a point. And on reflection, I had to agree with it. They assert that for many, the history of Roman Catholic church music has an arc.

The history starts with Medieval chant. It develops through the Renaissance with polyphony. And it stops with Palextrina in the early 1600s. 

At this point, we turn our attention to the Protestant church music of the North. And the presumption is that nothing further happened to church music in Italy.

But musical development didn’t stop. Italian composers continued to innovate and experiment right into the Age of Enlightenment. Composers like Giovanni Battista Casali.

Casali was a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn and was choirmaster at the church of St. John Lateran in Rome.

One of the characteristics of Casali is his clarity. The text is sung in four-part harmony. There’s a lot of homophonic singing, with clear enunciation of the text.

The internal lines are easy to make out. In fact, most of these selections have a clean, transparent ensemble blend. Counterpoint is present, but the interwoven melodies sound clear and easy to follow.

Casali was also an opera composer. To me, his sacred choral music bears a strong resemblance to opera choruses of the day. And that’s not a bad thing.

The Constanzi Consort is directed by Peter Leach. The soloists are very good and sing in a straightforward manner. A welcome addition to our collective knowledge of the Classical Era.

Giovanni Battista Casali: Sacred Music from 18th Century Rome
Costanzi Consort; Peter Leech, conductor
Toccata Classics TOCC 0429

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