Spanish Easter celebrations at the Piazza Navona, Rome in the 1580s


This recording sets out to reconstruct the sense of excitement and grandeur that surrounded Spanish Easter celebrations in the 1580s at the Church of St. Giacomo degli Spagnoli and the adjacent square of the Piazza Navona in the heart of Rome. At this time, Spain had much political and religious influence in Italy and spent large sums of money on these ceremonies which had both a strong visual and sonic impact, with colored lights, singing birds, fanfares, floats and fireworks. Music also played a crucial role, and the presence of Spanish composer Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548 – 1611) and his music lent prestige to the festivities for the Spanish community in Rome.

Among the many appealing aspects of this beautifully presented two CD clam-shell box from Lauda Musica is the sheer variety of the music, and with the timbres of sound. Although Tomás Luis de Victoria is the only composer mentioned on the album cover, only seven works out of twenty-five are by him, the others written by a range of his contemporaries. Vocal motets, psalms, plainchant and hymns written polyphonically or polychorally (choirs of voices spatially distanced) appear interspersed with instrumental pieces and fanfares performed by various combinations of cornets, sackbutts, violons, harpsichord, portative organ and solo lute. Because of this great diversity, the album remains fresh throughout and the music bears repeated listening very well.

The performances, too, are superb. La Grande Chapelle is a group of fifteen singers and thirteen instrumentalists under the direction of Albert Recasens. Even within the diversity of the program, there is a homogeneous characteristic beyond the uniform high quality of the performances alone. Excellent, extensive and very interesting notes round out this beautiful box set from Lauda Musica.