Friday, April 10, 2015

Salamone Rossi: A Basic Discography

Salamone Rossi (c. 1670-c. 1630) remains a figure of fascination from that tumultuous transitional period between the late Renaissance and early Baroque. In service at the court of the Gonzaga family in Mantua for roughly forty years, Rossi worked alongside some of the best-known composers of the day, including Gastoldi, Viadana, and Monteverdi, and was not found wanting in comparison. (Listeners in search of broader historical context and connection may note that Rossi was a close contemporary of Dowland, Wilbye, and many of the finest English madrigalists of the Elizabethan and early Jacobean period, with some evidence suggesting that their music may well have been known to him.) The composer is still best-known for his Hashirim Asher Lishlomo (The Songs of Solomon) (Venice, 1623), a glorious collection of settings of traditional Hebrew texts for worship in the synagogue. But there is a good deal more to the legacy of Il Mantovano Hebreo ("the Jew of Mantua"), including some of the very first works for vocal ensemble with horizontally-conceived, hierarchical voice-leadings (that is, bass-anchored harmony with a continuo), ultimately leaving five published books of madrigals, some of the earliest examples of the trio sonata, and, in all, over 150 secular compositions.

Rossi's work has been spottily available on record since the 1960s. Lukas Foss' novel, Respighi-esque set of orchestral arrangements, Salamone Rossi Suite (1974) was issued on the New World label in 1992 and brought some curious attention to the original compositions. Joel Cohen with his Boston Camerata was a particularly enthusiastic champion from the mid-1970s onwards, including instrumental and sacred works on several of his albums for the Harmonia Mundi and Erato labels. There was something of a minor explosion of interest in The Songs of Solomon during the mid-1990s. resulting in a number of fine records. (I would personally recommend Zoltan Kalmanovits' single-disc sampling of The Songs of Solomon with the Corvina Consort, (Hungaroton HCD 32350 (2006)), as, to my ears, it strikes an optimal balance of fine singing and committed interpretation with pleasing recorded sound.)

More recently, a trio of superb albums released in the last half-dozen years offers a broad, vibrant portrait of Rossi, both as prolific, often highly innovative court composer, and unique master of choral liturgical music. Possibly the best single-disc introduction to this oeuvre, Pan Classics PC 10214 (2009) presents effervescent, varicolored readings of instrumental pieces alongside marvelously engaging performances of choral works for court and synagogue by the Ensemble Musicadin and Profeti della Quinta, all in sumptuous, scintillating digital sound. Linn Records CKD 429 (2013), again from Profeti della Quinta under Elam Rotem, takes a similar "grab-bag" approach to repertory, with a pleasing mix of the sacred and secular, captured in Linn's characteristically breathtaking super-audio sonics. An equally fine program from Roberto Festa and the Daedalus Ensemble on  Glossa GCD C80006 (2013) helps listeners place Rossi in a more focused historical context, as the disc also includes works by several of his contemporaries from the Gonzaga Court.

Based on my own collection, the following discography includes what I consider to be some of the best recordings of Rossi's music from the past several decades. With one or two exceptions, I've tried to focus on records dedicated exclusively to this composer. Thus, the list mostly eschews broad-ranging choral anthologies with only one or two pieces from The Songs of Solomon--not that there aren't some good performances to be found here and there; those discs may well find their way onto a later list.  In several instances (7, 13-16), I've included programs, which, in including works by other composers of the broader period, help put Rossi's work into a sharper historical focus.


PCM 108 (1996)
Dorian/Sono Luminus 93210 (2000 re-issue)
Salamone Rossi: The Songs of Solomon
Volume I: Music for the Sabbath
Eric Milnes/New York Baroque

PCM 113 (1997)
Dorian/Sono-Luminus 93220 (2001 re-issue)
Salamone Rossi: The Songs of Solomon
Volume II: Holiday and Festival Music
Eric Milnes/New York Baroque

Carlton Classics 30366 00452 (1997)
Rossi: Hashirim Asher Lishlomo (The Songs of Solomon)
Musical Concepts MC 117 (2012 re-issue)
Songs of Solomon: 17th Century Polyphonic Settings by Salamone de' Rossi
Sydney Fixman/Pro Cantione Antiqua

Hungaroton HCD 32350 (2006)
Salamone Rossi: The Songs of Solomon
Zoltan Kalmanovits/Corvina Consort

Pan Classics PC 10214 (2009)
Salamone Rossi: The Songs of Solomon
(also includes instrumental works)
Ensemble Muscadin/Profeti della Quinta

Linn Records CKD 429 (2013)
Salamone Rossi: Il Montovano Hebreo
Italian Madrigals, Hebrew Prayers and Instrumental Music
Elam Rotem/Profeti Della Quinta

Glossa GCD C80006 (2013)
Salamone Rossi: Jewish Polyphony at the Ganzaga Court
(also includes works of Maurizzio Cazatti and John Wilbye)
Roberto Festa/Daedalus Ensemble

Zamir HZ 910 (1996)
Salamone Rossi Hebreo: Baroque Music for the Synagogue and the Royal Court
The Zamir Chorale of Boston
Members of the Early Music Ensemble of Boston
Collegium de Rossi
Joshua Jacobson

Tactus TC 571801 (2006 re-issue from 1994)
Salamone Rossi: Il Terzo Libro de varie sonate, sinfonie, gagliarde, brandi, e corrente (1613-1623)
(The Third Book of divers Sonatas, Sinfonias, Galliards, Branles, and Courantes)
Emmanuel Marcante/Il Ruggiero (ensemble)

Tactus TC 571802 (2000)
Salamone Rossi: Madrigaletti Op. XIII:
Sei madrigali a voce sola e tiorba (Six Madrigals for Solo Voice and Therobo)
Diego Cantalupi/L'Aura Soave

Tactus TC 571803 (2001)
Salamone Rossi: Primo Libro di Madrigali a 4 Voci
(First Book of Madrigals for 4 voices)
Arie a voce sola dal I Libro dei Madrigali a 5 Voci
(Arias from The First Book of Madrigals for 5 Voices)
Stefano Bozolo/Ut Musica Poesis (ensemble)

Brilliant Classics 93359 (3-disc set) (2008)
(re-issued from Tactus TC 571802-571804)
Rossi: Vocal Works, Madrigals and Canti di Salomone
Ut Musica Poesis
L'Aura Soave
Ensemble Hypothesis
Stefano Bozolo/Diego Cantalupi

Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951021 (2011 re-issue from 1979)
Jewish Baroque
Rossi: The Songs of Solomon (excerpts)
Saladin: Canticum Hebraicum
Grossi: Cantata ebraica
Joel Cohen/Boston Camerata

Dorian/Sono Luminus DSL 90913 (2009)
Passion and Lament
Rossi: settings from Hashirim Asher Lishlomo (6)
Biber: Stabat Mater
Carissimi: Historia di Jepthe
Daniel Abraham/Bach Sinfonia/Sinfonia Voci

World Village 468052 (2005)
Sacred Bridges
(Psalm settings by Salamone Rossi, Ali Ufki/Claude Gudimel, Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck)
The King's Singers/Saraband

Harmonia Mundi HMU 907478 (2008)
Birds on Fire: Jewish Music for Viols
(Jewish Musicians at the Tudor Court)
(Music by Rossi, Lupo, Bassano, Anonymous)
Jeremy Avis (vocal soloist)