“Venice, July 1603: Giovanni Croce, known as ‘il Chiozzotto’, a priest at the church of Santa Maria Formosa, was appointed maestro di cappella of St Mark’s basilica, one of the most prestigious posts in the musical world of the time. A controversial biography, many aspects of which have not yet been elucidated, and a musical output of excellent quality constitute the appeal of this composer born in Chioggia, who is still overshadowed today by his famous successors. Yet Giovanni Croce proves to be an extraordinary figure, halfway between the conservative Venetian school of Gioseffo Zarlino and the modernism of Claudio Monteverdi. He makes masterly use of double chorus and of such special devices as echo effects, while maintaining a fine transparency in his counterpoint that links him with classical polyphony. Two exceptional young Swiss ensembles, the vocal group Voces Suaves (which has won several prizes for its first two recordings) and the instrumental ensemble Concerto Scirocco, combine here in the magnificent surroundings of the palatine basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua, where they have the advantage of the outstanding Antegnati organ built in 1565, to honour Giovanni Croce and his contemporaries and introduce us to other aspects of the glorious musical activity at St Mark’s”
After rediscovering the music of Giovanni Croce, maestro di cappella at St Mark’s cathedral in Venice (A439), Ensembles Voces Suaves & Concerto Scirocco take us to Salzburg and put the spotlight on the Verona-born composer Stefano Bernardi, a contemporary of Monteverdi. Bernardi reached the peak of his career in Salzburg, when he was appointed the first Kapellmeister of its newly constructed cathedral, a position he held from 1628 to 1634. Bernardi contributed greatly to the integration of the Italian nuovo stile in Salzburg, especially of features such as polychorality and the stile concertato, and may therefore be seen as the musical forefather of later, more famous Salzburg musicians. The outstanding stature of his music is clearly evident from his majestic Requiem, the manuscript of which is still preserved in the Salzburg cathedral archives. Particularly impressive is the Sequentia, which forms the core of the work and opens with an elaborate Dies irae section, based on the famous chant melody. The Requiem, as well as a number of Motets by Bernardi, is recorded here for the very first time.
Photo @Adriano Geiger