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Culture Watch: Alessandro Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts

April 6, 2011 |  6:00 am

Striggio Alessandro Striggio: Mass in 40 Parts

(Decca)

This 1566 Florentine mass, “Ecce si beato giorno,” commissioned by Cosimo de Medici as a gift to the Pope, had 40 separate vocal parts, with the option of instruments to double them. The mass was only recently discovered, and this is its first recording. It’s tremendous music -- nothing like it had ever before existed.

Creatively reconstructed and conducted by Robert Hollingworth, it gets a tremendous performance by I Fagiolini. And a tremendous recording. If you’ve got a fancy 5.1 surround-sound setup, the companion DVD will provide show-off material. But the mass is very effective in two channels, as are the CD's companion works by Striggio and Thomas Tallis’ more famous 40-part motet, “Spem in Alium,” written 40 years after Striggio’s mass, and also given a glorious performance.

-- Mark Swed

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