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Francesco Cavalli was born on 14 February 1602 in the Venetian city of Crema where he was a choirboy in the cathedral. He entered the choir of St Mark's Venice in 1616 as a treble and worked there (with the exception of an extended visit to Paris from 1660 until 1662) until his death in 1676. He became second organist in 1639, first organist in 1665, and maestro di capella in 1668.
At St Mark's High Mass was virtually a continuous concert. The five movements of the Mass Ordinary would be interspersed with offertory and communion motets and with ensemble sonatas. While this recording is not meant to be an exact reconstruction of any particular service, it does seem important to include these additional pieces in their proper liturgical positions; they provide the sort of contrasts in scoring, idiom and mood that Cavalli would have been expecting when he wrote his Messa Concertata, the work which stands at the head of his Musiche sacre, the volume published in 1656 containing the majority of his surviving works. The Mass can therefore be regarded as being among his finest compositions.