If you like choral or early music, or even Gregorian chant, you can’t go wrong with this lovely album.
Francesco Rovigo sounds like some kind of star footballer from the 16th century: the hotshot organist played at the court of Italian nobles the Gonzagas, who liked him so much they sent him to study in Venice.
Bad move: he was poached by Archduke Charles of Bavaria, who tempted him with a big salary; so well was he paid that he was singled out by Claudio Monteverdi — a fan musically — when the latter had a whinge about his own low pay.
Archduke Charles was a keen horseman (he played a major role in developing the Lipizzan breed) and a keener Catholic, so while he undoubtedly liked Rovigo the organist, he must also have liked Rovigo the composer of religious music.
The sleeve notes say that Archduke Charles developed his own template for liturgical music, alternating polyphonic music and plainsong — approved by the pope no less — and it was this that Rovigo composed. Eventually, Charles met his maker, who hopefully appreciated all the music, and Rovigo returned to the Gonzagas.
All this gives an idea of the calibre of Rovigo, and this live recording, a world premiere, which showcases music from the archives of the Palatine Basilica of Santa Barbara in Mantua, where Rovigo is now buried.
It’s sombre yet easy to listen to and makes both nice background music and something to listen to more intently and enjoy.
Cappella Musicale di Santa Barbara members sing canto, alto, tenor, quinto and bass. Some Gregorian chant is featured as well as instruments including cornet and viola.
Out now on Tactus, TC 541801.