Ingegneri: Missa Laudate Pueri Dominum - Girton/Wilson. © 2020 Toccata Classics

CD Spotlight

An Unmissable Issue

the music of Marc'Antonio Ingegneri

'The repetition of phrases in the musical exchange between the two choirs becomes almost hypnotic for the listener, and one feels totally engrossed in the Eucharistic mystery.'


Born in Verona in circa 1535/36, but an inhabitant of Cremona since 1570, Marc'Antonio Ingegneri is one of those Renaissance composers who contributed much, but whose music is still in the process of evaluation. Ingegneri lived and worked during a period of immense religious upheaval. The Protestant Reformation was a tempest that shook the Catholic Church from its very foundations. That which was standard belief and practice for 1,500 years was undermined at its very core, and everything - liturgy, theology, rituals and even music - was called into question. The Church had to respond, and it did, with one of the most famous councils in its history, that of Trent.

The council had several vital items on its agenda, among which was the nature of worship, which also incorporated the musical aspect. In the final sessions of the council, which ran from 1545 to 1563, the council Fathers stressed the importance of balance in polyphony between text and music, doing away with improper melodies known as 'canti fermi', and musical teachers were now obliged to teach music in seminaries and to compose sacred works which would ideally compliment solemn celebrations. The council also had a great impact on a place like Cremona. In the second half of the sixteenth century this city lacked a real musical canon. Gregorian chant was still the only form employed in its cathedral gatherings, and the singers were often led by priests who were not up to the job.

It is in this turbulent environment that Ingegneri comes in. In 1573 the composer took up the role of 'maestro di cappella' of the cathedral, and from then on, on the recommendation of the music-loving Bishop Sfrondrati, began the substantial and daunting task of re-establishing a musical tradition at the cathedral. With this aim in mind, Ingegneri introduced various instruments combined with voices, thus creating a new lease of life to the liturgy. His innovations put Cremona Cathedral on a par with such famous venues as Santa Maria Maggiore, Bergamo, San Petronio, Bologna, San Marco, Venice and Sant'Antonio, Padova.

His use of instruments perfectly served the council ideal of the 'ecclesia triumphans', where sacred music, particularly Masses and Motets, were used to help the liturgy become an anticipation of divine glory and paradise. Indeed, Ingegneri acquired such an enterprising reputation that one of his pupils was none other than Claudio Monteverdi. Although Ingegneri wrote music of breathtaking beauty and richness, the Mass 'Laudate Pueri Dominum' is the only extant Mass of the composer in eight parts, and maybe the most profound, among the known works that have survived.

Listen — Ingegneri: Gloria (Missa Laudate pueri Dominum a8)
(track 4, 0:32-1:20) © 2020 Toccata Classics :

The repetition of phrases in the musical exchange between the two choirs becomes almost hypnotic for the listener, and one feels totally engrossed in the Eucharistic mystery.

Listen — Ingegneri: Sanctus (Missa Laudate pueri Dominum a8)
(track 9, 0:01-0:49) © 2020 Toccata Classics :

The rest of the works are all mini-masterpieces, where Ingegneri's ability to communicate so much within a limited time-frame really comes to the fore.

Listen — Ingegneri: Cantate et psallite (a12)
(track 1, 0:03-0:59) © 2020 Toccata Classics :

A short motet by Ingegneri's contemporary Giovanni Croce (1557-1609), In spiritu humilitatis, completes a disc full of inspired and uplifting pieces that soothe the heart.

Listen — Giovanni Croce: In spiritu humilitatis (a8)
(track 16, 4:22-5:22) © 2020 Toccata Classics :

The compelling annotations and sonics are an added bonus. An unmissable issue.

Copyright © 8 May 2020 Gerald Fenech,
Gzira, Malta






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