The recording by British vocal group I Fagiolini of the little-known Alessandro Striggio’s 1566 mass for 40 voices — most masses are written for four — made its debut at number 68 on the pop charts, above Bon Jovi, George Harrison and Eminem.
Richard Hollingworth, the groups founder and conductor explained,
We really worked hard so that there could be a properly magnificent and extravagant sound world for the piece to revel in. This is not the grainy, black-and-white film, this is the full Hollywood Technicolor. I think that’s why it works so well…it’s like a kind of aural kaleidoscope.”
The critics agree. The Telegraph says,
Its impact in this premiere recording by the voices and period instruments of I Fagiolini under Robert Hollingworth is terrific. Those who have the technology can download files from the accompanying DVD to experience it in 5.1 surround-sound, but adherents of conventional stereo will not be disappointed.”
The Observer is less taken with the mass, while appreciating the interpretation,
Beautifully performed by I Fagiolini with soloists and countless continuo parts, the polychoral effects are striking but harmonically not very interesting. Striggio’s secular madrigals are more alluring, and at the end comes Tallis’s more famous 40-part Spem in alium, done here with instruments, incomparably more subtle and moving, a masterpiece.
Striggio Mass in 40 Parts – Robert Hollingworth – Decca
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.