Westminster Cathedral Choir, James O'Donnell (conductor)
Famous composers can cast long shadows. The attention paid to Palestrina in the four centuries since his death has meant the neglect of a substantial group of composers who were his contemporaries, or part of the following generation. If noted at all, they are lumped together as the ‘Roman School’ and assumed—though very little of their music has actually been heard—to have continued to write in the conservative style of Palestrina’s Masses. And yet the forty or so years between 1580 and 1620 saw a huge expansion in Roman musical activity and a consequent explosion of composition by native Italians attracted to the city. Each of these composers was an individual and, while much of their music did continue to develop the style of the later Palestrina, they also began to explore the new ground opened up, for example, by the advent of the basso continuo. This is certainly true of the Anerio brothers, Felice and Giovanni Francesco, born in the 1560s into a Roman musical family—their father, Maurizio, was a trombone player—and the music presented here, some of it being heard for the first time since the seventeenth century, should help make listeners aware of the riches waiting to be discovered in the works of these composers.