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"Vergine bella: Madrigali da sonar"

Arianna Savall, soprano
Il Desiderio
Dir: Thomas Kügler
rec: Oct 2004 & Jan 2005, Cologne, Deutschlandradio (Sendesaal)
Aeolus - AE-10146 (© 2008) (70'04")

Jacques ARCADELT (1505-1568): O felici occhi miei; Orazio BASSANI (c1550-1615): Vergine bella (De Rore); Giovanni BASSANO (1560/61-1617): Non č ch'il duol mi scemi (De Rore); Ricercata I; Giovanni Battista BOVICELLI (fl 1592-94): Io son ferito (Palestrina); Girolamo DALLA CASA (?-c1601): Anchor che col partire (De Rore); Giovanni Paolo CIMA (c1570-c1622): Sonata a Canto e Basso; Giorgio MAINERIO (c1535-1582): Pass'e mezzo antico & Saltarello; Diego ORTIZ (c1510-c1570): Recercada II (O felici occhi miei, Arcadelt); Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (c1525-1594): Vestiva i colli; Richardo ROGNIONO TAEGGIO (c1550-before 1620): Anchor che col partire (De Rore); Vincenzo RUFFO (c1508-1587): Dormiendo un giorno; El pietoso; El travagliato; O felici occhi miei; Vergine bella (De Rore) Bartolomeo DE SELMA Y SALAVERDE (fl 1613-1638): Vestiva i colli a 2 basso & soprano (Palestrina)

(Sources: Diego Ortiz, Tratado de glosas ..., 1553; Vincenzo Ruffo, Capricci in musica a tre voci ..., 1564; Girolamo Dalla Casa, Il vero modo di diminuir ..., 1584; Giovanni Bassano, Ricercate passaggi et cadentie ..., 1585; Motetti, madrigali, et canzoni francese ..., 1591; Richardo Rogniono Taeggio, Passaggi per potersi essercitare nel diminuire terminatamente ..., 1592; Giovanni Battista Bovicelli, Regole, passaggi di musica, madrigali et motetti passeggiati, 1594; Giovanni Paolo Cima, Concerti ecclesiastici a 1,2,3,4,5 e 8 voci, 1610; Orazio Bassani, Lezioni di cotrappunto, ms c1620-22; Bartolomeo de Selma y Salaverde, Canzoni fantasie et correnti da suonar ..., 1638 )

Thomas Kügler, Ildikó Kertész, Marcello Gatti, Ursula Thelen, Sarah van Cornewal, renaissance transverse flute; Frauke Hess, viola da gamba; André Henrich, lute, chitarrone; Marie Bourisien, harp

The madrigal was one of the most important musical genres in the second half of the 16th century, in particular in Italy. Numerous of such works were written and published. Some of the most prominent composers of madrigals are represented on this disc: Jacques Arcadelt composed more than 200 of them - and earlier in his career about 150 chansons - and Cipriano de Rore more than 100. Even Palestrina, today almost exclusively associated with sacred music, composed almost 100 madrigals. His most famous madrigals are included here: Io son ferito ahi lasso and Vestiva i colli. The other two are also represented with their best-known madrigals.

Of course, there is a reason for this: in the composer's time they belonged to their most celebrated works, and that is reflected by the number of arrangements by their contemporaries as well as composers of later generations. And that is the subject of this disc: the way madrigals were arranged, usually for instruments. This disc sheds light on the practice of diminutions: one part from a polyphonic madrigal or motet was taken - usually the upper part -, to which ornaments were added. Diminutions of this kind are not exactly terra incognita: they regularly appear on discs with Italian music of around 1600. But it nevertheless makes sense to present them as they are here. The interesting aspect of this production is that the madrigals can be heard in various ways: either in their original form or with diminutions by some of the most important composers in this genre, like Giovanni Bassano, Giovanni Battista Bovicelli and Richardo Rogniono Taeggio.

The original versions are sometimes performed twice, in different scorings. O felici occhi miei by Jacques Arcadelt, for instance, is first performed with soprano and three transverse flutes, then with diminutions by Diego Ortiz, and then in its original form again, this time with soprano, harp and lute. This way we not only get an idea of how composers dealt with some of the most famous music of their time, but also of the various ways a madrigal could be performed,

The diminutions are also historically important in that the composers usually wrote them for their own instrument, like the violin, the cornett or the viola da gamba. They were mostly virtuosos on their instruments and their diminutions attest to that fact. Moreover, in their diminutions they often explored the qualities of their instruments. Therefore the diminutions are important stages into the evolution of instrumental music to independence from vocal models.

The instrument which is in the centre of this recording is the renaissance transverse flute. It is played both in ensemble as well as independently - up to four of them. This is an additional merit of this disc, as the transverse flute isn't that often used in this kind of repertoire.

In addition to the madrigals and the diminutions written on them we hear several pieces from a collection of capricci by Vincenzo Ruffo. It contains original compositions as well as arrangements of vocal pieces. Five examples of the latter category are performed here. The treatment of the vocal models is different from the diminutions by other composers: sometimes the cantus firmus is only in the lowest part, and it can wander through the three voices.

Lastly, two other categories of music are included. Two dances by Giorgio Mainerio represent the world of dance music - virtually the only genre of independent instrumental music before the turn of the century. And then a sonata by Giovanni Paolo Cima: here we have a early example of a musical genre which was going to play a central role in the instrumental music of the next centuries.

The programme has been intelligently put together, showing the various ways in which a particular piece was treated. The various scorings also guarantee a maximum of variety. The playing by the members of the ensemble Il Desiderio is of the highest standard. The singing of Arianna Savall is a delight: the pure sound of her voice and the sophistication of her singing as well as her treatment of the text is perfectly suitable for this repertoire.

In short, this is an outstanding production: music, performance, recording and booklet are of the highest quality.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

Relevant links:

Il Desiderio

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