Sacred music underwent drastic and sudden change in the 1620s. The polychoral style of Giovanni Gabrieli was replaced. Instead of lavish writing for divided choirs, the emphasis was now on a few solo voices, while Gabrieli's opulent groups of cornetts, violins and trombones were replaced by much smaller groups usually consisting just of strings. At the same time, there was much more emphasis on virtuosity, and the grandeur of the Gabrieli style was replaced by much more intimate one based on the idioms of secular music. Monteverdi, maestro di capella at St Mark's in Venice from 1613, used this new concerted style extensively in his later church music, but it was developed to its fullest extent in the 1630s and 40s by his colleagues and followers, such as Alessandro Grandi, Giovanni Antonio Rigatti and Giovanni Rovetta, and it was still current in the 1680s, when Giovanni Legrenzi was working at St Marks. (Works by all can be found here.)
This recording is a survey of this rich and still little-known repertory, concentrating on music for a solo male alto voice with strings. Venetian churches, like their counterparts elsewhere in Italy, seem to have used castrati or falsettists rather than boys to sing the upper parts of church music, and so there is a wealth of material from the period suitable for modern countertenors.