Crucifixus a 8 [3'43]
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|St Paul's Cathedral Choir, John Scott (conductor)|
|Tenebrae, Nigel Short (conductor)|
One might be forgiven, when listening to the church music of Antonio Lotti (c1667–1740), for thinking that he was a Venetian composer contemporary with Palestrina in the High Renaissance. His music sounds as if he were writing in the late 1600s when he was, in fact, a contemporary of J S Bach. Lotti may even have been born in Hanover; his father had been Kapellmeister there. Antonio Lotti studied in Venice with Legrenzi (1626–1690)—who was maestro di capella at St Mark’s church—sang in the choir there and by 1689 was regularly singing alto; he became an assistant to the second organist a year later. By 1704 he had become first organist and in 1736 maestro di capella, a position he held until his death. Thus Lotti lived and breathed the life at St Mark’s and its music. He must have absorbed the style of the Renaissance composers through his exposure to the music through the choir of St Mark’s.
Lotti also composed twenty-eight stage works. He was granted leave in 1717 to go to Dresden to write an opera, completing three in a period of two years. When he returned after his final trip to that city in 1719, he kept the carriage and horses given to him for his return trip to remind him of his success. After this he remained in Venice. As composer he was clearly able to adapt to the stylistic demands placed upon him. He wrote in the Baroque idiom of the late seventeenth century, adjusting his style to the new, leaner harmony of the approaching Classical era. Above all, his love and mastery of contrapuntal and imitative writing dominates in his later years, and the composer became very highly regarded. Burney was moved to tears on hearing his music at St Mark’s in 1770, and reported that ‘Hasse regarded Lotti’s compositions as the most perfect of their kind’. That ‘kind’ is perhaps best regarded as a stile antico in which the composer imitated the style of a bygone age.
Lotti wrote many versions of the Crucifixus, for 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9- and 10-part choirs. This version is written in 8 parts; the basses begin and the music unfolds organically towards an impressive cadence. The pungency of the music is obtained through the suspension, dissonance and resolution of the long slow lines. This gives way to quaver movement before moving back to the slow sustained harmonies of the opening.
from notes by William McVicker © 1997
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