Venecie Mundi Splendor

Marvels of Medieval Venice
Music For The Doges, 1330-1430

La Reverdie
Arcana, 2015

Tracklist and more details

Venecie Mundi Splendor: Overview

Venice became one of the most importat musical centres only beginning with Adrian Willaert (maestro di cappella of St Mark’s Basilica since 1527), but music was a significant part of the city’s life already two centuries before his appointment. Solemn or important events were always accompanied by music. The Venetian maximum authority, the Doge, was also celebrated in music and eight motets make explicit reference to him. Motets are also the most frequent genre chosen for celebrations, following a tradition established by Marchettus de Padua at the time of doge Francesco Dandolo (1329-39).

The present recording brings together some samples of this rare music. It focuses on the motets composed to celebrate the Doges in the course of a century, between 1330 and 1430. Differently from the music of the 16th century, little is known about Venetian music in the Middle Ages. It was influenced by the liturgy of Aquileia and diverged significantly from the Gregorian chant. In Venetian music, the tenor is not based on a pre-existing melody but is freely composed.

Venecie mundi splendor (“Venice, splendour of the world”) takes its title from the motet composed by Johannes Ciconia to celebrate Padua’s annexation to the Venetian Republic (1406), which is included in this recording.

Venecie Mundi Splendor: the Performance

La Reverdie is an ensemble specialized in medieval and Renaissance music that has a long recording history. Venecie Mundi Splendor is one of its more recent projects. It was recorded at the Palladian Refectory in Venice in 2014.

This recording is particularly valuable for precision and clarity. The playing is exquisite and the voices are smooth and correct – good enough to present these unknown works in a satisfactory way. They are able to convey the sense of sacredness and hieratic formality that is the main feature of these works (as in Marchettus de Padua’s Ave corpus sanctum), but they are also able to embellish the music with their heartfelt singing. A motet as Hugo de Lantius’s Christus vincit reveals unpredictable warmth, while Antonius Romanus’s Credo is performed with ineffable lightness. Although there is something relaxed in this performance that somehow diminishes its brilliance, the music preserves its transparency and fluidity.

What is extremely noteworthy is the acoustic of the location where the recording was made. The Palladian Refectory has amazing acoustics and the recorded sound is rich, clear and detailed. It makes possible to enjoy the reverberation of the voices and instruments and conveys a sense of emotional engagement and meditation that otherwise would have been lost.