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Divine Theatre

Wert disc praised in Italian press

Andrea Milanesi, Avvenire.it (7 July, 2017)

With this disc ‘Divine Theatre’, the vocal ensemble Stile Antico invites us to discover the ‘other side’ of the oeuvre of Giaches de Wert (1535-1596), the one concerned with sphere of sacred music; the hidden side of the creative vein of the Flemish master, better known for his extraordinary madrigals, and for the profound influence he exerted on the composers of his time, beginning with the great Monteverdi, who had the opportunity to meet and get to know the northern composer whilst De Wert presided over the Cappella Palatina of Santa Barbara at Mantua.

Wert’s ‘divine theatre’ is first and foremost the perfect bridge between the magisterial polyphony of the late-Renaissance and the ‘modern’ stylistic and formal ideas with which Monteverdi was himself experimenting during those years.

The distinctive feature and inspiration of these motets is nourished through a refined harmonic treatment which underlines with great precision the emotional inflections and dynamic accents of the words, by means of a process of sound-painting in which every word is subjected to a musical dramatization, drawing on the chromatic palate derived from the highest art of the madrigal.

The English singers of Stile Antico are able to point up all these features with the tip of a brush, often attaining truly exciting interpretations, as in the case of the festive ‘Gaudete in Domino’ which opens the collection, or in the evocative ‘Peccavi super numerum’. But the most spectacular results, both in the writing and the interpretation, are found in the motet ‘Saule, Saule’, focused on the close dialogue between the protagonists – Jesus and Paul – and their encounter on the road to Damascus, and the well-structured ‘Ascendente Jesu in naviculam’, which describes the story of Christ and the Apostles on board ship during the storm, rendered vividly through rhythmic effects which accompany its arrival and its progressive calming.