Ciconia: Opera Omnia

Ciconia: Opera Omnia
Diabolus in Musica - Antoine Guerber / La Morra - Corina Marti & Michal Gondko
Ricercar 316 (2 CDs)

Ciconia is certainly one of the more interesting composers of the period, and so deserving of the attention which he receives. Nonetheless, it does leave several comparable composers relatively under-represented. This is basically a definitive program, the latest in a line of steady attention paid to Ciconia and the general performance style of the era. Although I remain somewhat mystified by the order of magnitude more attention Ciconia receives over his contemporaries, his impressive command of a broad range of styles is consummated here.

I have listed this item under Secular, since that has generally been the aspect of Ciconia's oeuvre that I've found most compelling. However, the sacred selections here, even as they are a minority, are particularly well-done. This performance really establishes the significance of Ciconia's sacred output particularly in the Gloria form.

Regarding performance, it is natural to consider the two different ensembles. It would appear that the two parts of the program (which do not entirely follow the CD boundary) were basically prepared and recorded separately.

In the case of the songs recorded by La Morra, the performance style follows the precedent of Alla Francesca and others rather closely. However, there is a further development of the details and refinement of the music, as lines and sonorities interact from note to note. This performance is entirely of the "quiet" sort, but also very much shows off Ciconia's musical logic e.g. in two-part passages, with the close interaction between the performers.

The performance by Diabolus in Musica, the larger part of the program, devoted to motets and sacred works and other Latin music, is the more innovative of the two. In this case, the style is truly articulated clearly for the first time, including as stated in e.g. the sequence of Glorias. There is a great structural sweep here, showing off the relatively large-scale conception Ciconia was using in some of this music. The precision and clarity of line are superb, allowing e.g. the Latin canon Quod jactatur to come to life in a vocal version. The sonorities, using only voices & organetto & sackbuts (and sometimes entirely voices), are also distinctive and compelling.

This recording was named my EM Record of the Year for 2011.

To medieval secular list

Todd M. McComb