After dumping on the Church of England last week, it’s only fair that I give the Brits credit where credit is due. At least there classical music still is listened to enough that it actually gets on the pop charts every now and then. In this case, the newly popular work in question is the Decca label’s release of Ecco si beato giorno, a mass for forty voices composed around 1566 by Alessandro Striggio.
Several composers wrote 40-part masses or motets in the sixteenth century. The best known is Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium,” which is also on the new CD. What makes the Striggio mass unusual is that hardly anyone living has ever heard it since it got misfiled at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris centuries ago. A researcher stumbled upon it, and it was performed live in 2007, but Decca’s is the first studio recording.
The new recording follows sixteenth-century performance practice, which allowed for instruments like sackbuts to take the place of voices on some of the parts.
I’ve listened to 40-part polyphonic pieces a number of times, and it’s certainly a different experience from what most classical listeners are used to. If you’re interested in what all the buzz is about, I found the recording of the Striggio mass on Amazon.com. You can check it out here.