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It is strange that a number of important repertoires have yet to receive or are just now receiving their first in-depth attention. Such is the case with the vocal sacred music of  GIOVANNI LEGRENZI (1626-1690).

Admired by Bach and Händel, Giovanni Legrenzi was undoubtedly one of the most important and influential composers of his generation, playing a leading role in the development of the new sacred concertato style that became established around the middle of Seventeenth century in northern Italy.

Apart from a few compositions survived in manuscript form, Giovanni Legrenzi’s entire output of sacred music is contained in the ten volumes consigned to the presses of the Venetian printers Alessandro Vincenzi (opus 1, 2, 3), Francesco Magni (opus 5, 6, 7 and 9), Giuseppe Sala (opus 15 and 17), and the Bologna publisher Giacomo Monti (opus 10) in the period between 1654 and 1692. Each publication is printed in the characteristic octavo format of 16 cm. wide by 22 cm. high, in individual «part-books» corresponding to the vocal and instrumental layout chosen by the composer at any given time.

Although the art of Legrenzi as composer of sacred music is sublime, to this day it is neglected and it is far from receiving from performers and musicians the attention, esteem and interest it deserves.

It is a world yet to be discovered!

With this significant project devoted to the rediscovery of Legrenzi’s sacred repertoire, Giovanni Acciai, Ivana Valotti with the ensemble «Nova Ars Cantandi», a group constantly engaged in research of new unpublished Italian musical works, aim to fill this large gap.

Their think is that the rich Italian patrimony is no exclusively an Italian heritage but it represents an European musical treasure that must be preserved.

For this reason their mission is not only to rediscover the Italian musical patrimony but also to promote and spread the knowledge of Italian musical heritage everywhere.

Not by chance they started a process of recovery and promotion of Legrenzi'sacred music: it is a long path that brought until now to light and life two magnificent sacred works: Harmonia d’affetti devoti, for two, three, four voices, opus 3 (Venice, Alessandro Vincenti, 1655); Compiete con le lettanie et antifone della Beata Vergine a 5, opus 7, (Venice, Francesco Magni detto Gardano, 1662).

Both are «premiere world recordings», published by Naxos Records, exalting the artistic power of this charming and fascinating music through a philological performance entrusted to male voices only.

The decision to give the vocal lines of the Cantus, Altus, Quintus, Tenor and Bas-sus to an all-amale quintet does not come from personal choice, entirely matter of opinion, but from respect for theoretical norms, sanctioned by centuries of performance practice and set down in the liturgical decrees of the Church of Rome, which established from the time of the Synod of Laodicea (364 a. C.) that «tacet mulier in Ecclesia, absit mulier a Choro».

Apart from that, a formation paribus vocibus is the ideal one for achieving balance and homogeneity in the overall vocal sound, which is compromised when the Cantus and the Altus parts are given to women’s voices.

Written according to the new stylistic freedom of Monteverdi’s «Seconda prattica», in concertato style, these two collections offer a precious opportunity to explore and enjoy a special music: it is music of freshness and emotion shot through with profound spirituality. In a word it is inspired music. 

Compieta (Compline) is the final prayer in the monastic day. It is a corpus of prayers belonging to a liturgy rarely set to music.

The Harmonia d’affetti devoti is written for a small number of voices, and is intended for daily liturgical performance to meet the demands of the many provincial churches that had modest financial resources. It contains fourteen compositions distributed as follows: four books for two voices (two for two Cantus; one for Altus and Tenor, one for Cantus and Bassus; six for three voices; four for four voices and Basso continuo.

Throughout, Legrenzi presents a great variety of formal patterns and compositional techniques associated with the concertato style.

Moreover his language, rich with novel effects of timbre, harmonic ideas, original solutions to move the passions of the spirit, represents a living memorial to the Italian Baroque music.

Not by chance the poetry of Legrenzi music is truly representative of the Baroque style; it raises to a peak of great expressive intensity through a musical language characterized by a subtle and luminous singing content, by a singular melodic refinement, by an harmonic taste erudition, by a magnificent declamation of the text.

Both the collections are pervaded by a magic of sounds that seemingly unending emotional tension.

Perfect elegance, wonder and amazement are the qualities characterizing these two new collections.

With these premiere world recordings Giovanni Acciai, Ivana Valotti and the ensemble «Nova Ars Cantandi» enable audience to explore a musical world full of intense emotion and rare beauty.

It is the repertoire performed in cities such as Bergamo, Ferrara and Venice in the time of Bernini, Caravaggio, Guercini!

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