Giovanni Battista Grillo: Complete Instrumental Music and Selected Motets, His Majestys Sagbutts & Cornetts, Jeremy West, treble cornett; Jamie Savan, treble and tenor cornetts; Bork-Frithjof Smith, treble cornett; Adam Woolf, alto and tenor sackbuts; Abigail Newman, alto and tenor sackbuts; Philip Dale, tenor sackbut; Andrew Harwood-White, bass sackbut; Stephen Saunders, bass and tenor sackbuts. Sfz Music SFZ0107 www.sfzmusic.co.uk. Group website www.hmsc.co.uk. Recorded in St. George's Church, Cambridge, 20-22 September 2006.
Listening to the latest release from His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts is a genuine pleasure on so many levels. Grillo was active in Venice in the early sixteenth century. Clearly the composer most often associated with that era and locale was Giovanni Gabrieli. This recording easily succeeds in demonstrating Grillo's worth.
Grillo succeeded Gabrieli as organist at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in 1612 and held this position until his death in 1622. Additionally he freelanced as an organist at San Marco on major feast days in 1615 and 1617, playing under the direction of Claudio Monteverdi. In 1619 he was appointed first organist at San Marco. (Gabrieli had only been the second organist there).
Grillo's music is varied. One hears the cori spezzati style of Gabrieli's Venice as well as a more forward-looking concertato style (solo voices and basso continuo alternating with tutti voices) similar to the music of Monteverdi.
The playing on this disc is sublime. It may seem to be an exaggeration, but every single phrase has been carefully shaped. Ornaments are tasteful and elegantly performed. Blend both with instruments and vocalists (eight of the nineteen tracks include voices) is exceptionally fine. Throughout the disc players perform with a purely vocal style and do so with warmth and sensitivity.
Modern editions by Bernard Thomas for eight of the tracks have alredy been published by London Pro Music. The remaining eleven are now available from Sfz Editions and were prepared by Jamie Savan and Adam Woolf, both of whom are members of HMSC.
The personnel of His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts has changed over its twenty-five-year span. Indeed, only its founder, Jeremy West, and sackbut player Stephen Saunders are original members. However, one recognizes numerous players from many of the group's previous recordings.
The recording is performed at A=440 in quarter-comma mean tone. Cornetti used were made by Christopher Monk Instruments, John McCann, Christoph Schuler, and Serge Delmas. Sackbuts were made by Ewald Meinl, Egger Instruments, Glassi, and Frank Tomes.
This recording is essential to HBS members. It brings to light a neglected composer and in so doing, expands our repertoire significantly. Moreover, the playing is nothing short of exquisite. A breath of fresh air.
-- James Miller.