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"Orlando Furioso - Madrigali sul poema di Ludovico Ariosto"

La Compagnia del Madrigale
Dir: Giuseppe Maletto

rec: Oct 19 - 23, 2009 & Sept 2, 2010, Roletto-Pinerolo (Turin), Chiesa della B.V. Maria del Monte Carmelo al Colletto
Arcana - A 363 (© 2011) (69'49")
Liner-notes: E/D/F/I; lyrics - translations: E/D/F
Cover & track-list

William BYRD (1539/40-1623): La verginella è simile alla rosa [19] - Ma non sì tosto dal materno stelo a 5 [after 20]; Perissone CAMBIO (c1520-1562): Scarpello si vedrà di piombo o lima a 5 [3]; Alfonso FERRABOSCO (1543-1588): Questi ch'indizio fan del mio tormento a 6 [20]; Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585): Dunque baciar sì belle e dolce labbia - Se tu m'occidi, è ben ragio che deggi a 3 [13]; Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594): Deh perché voglio anco di me dolermi? - Dunque fia ver (dicea) che mi convenga a 5 [17]; Di qua di la va le noiose piume a 5 [17]; Pensier (dicea) che 'l cor m'agghiacci et ardi a 5 [18]; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525-1594): Se ben non veggon gli occhi ciò che vede a 5 [8]; Benedetto PALLAVICINO (c1551-1601): Tra le purpuree rose e i bianchi gigli a 5 [15]; Hoste DA REGGIO (c1520-1569): Gli sdegni, le repulse e finalmente a 4 [5]; Le donne, i cavalier, l'arme, gli amori a 4 [6]; Cipriano DE RORE (1515/16-1565): Come la notte ogni fiammella è viva a 5 [7]; Era bel viso suo, quale esser suole - E ne la face de' begli occhi accende a 4 [9]; Vincenzo RUFFO (1510-1587): Liete piante, verdi erbe, limpide acque a 5 [4]; Alessandro STRIGGIO (1536/37-1592): Non rumor di tamburi o suon di trombe a 6 [11]; Or se mi mostra la mia carta il vero - Sento venir per allegrezza un tuono a 6 [11]; Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (c1470-1535): Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 4 [1]; Philippe VERDELOT (c1480/85-1530/32?): Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 6 [2]; Giaches DE WERT (1535-1596): Chi salirà per me, madonna, in cielo a 4 [10]; Non tanto il bel palazzo è si eccellente a 5 [14]; Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 5 [12]; Vaghi boschetti di soavi allori a 5 [16]

Sources: [1] Bartolomeo Tromboncino, Il quarto libro di canzoni, sonetti, strambotti et frottole, 1517; [2] Philippe Verdelot, Madrigali a sei voci, 1541; [3] Perissone Cambio, Il segundo libro de madregali, 1550; [4] Vincenzo Ruffo, Il primo libro de madrigali a cinque voci, 1553; Hoste da Reggio, [5] Il secondo libro delli madrigali a quattro voci, 1554; [6] Il terzo libro delli madrigali a quattro voci, 1554; [7] Cipriano de Rore, Il quarto libro d'i madregali a cinque voci, 1557; [8] div, Il terzo libro delle muse a cinque voci di diversi eccellentissimi musici, 1561; [9] Di Ciprione et Annibale, Madrigali a quattro voci, 1561; [10] Giaches de Wert, Il primo libro de' madrigali a quattro voci, 1561; [11] Alessandro Striggio, Il secondo libro de madrigali a sei voci, 1571; [12] Giaches de Wert, Il quinto libro de madrigali a cinque, sei et sette voci, 1571; [13] Andrea Gabrieli, Il primo libro de madrigali a tre voci, 1575; [14] Giaches de Wert, Il sesto libro de madrigali a cinque voci, 1577; [15] Benedetto Pallavicino, Il primo libro de madrigali a cinque, 1581; [16] Giaches de Wert, Il settimo libro de madrigali a cinque, 1581; Orlandus Lassus, [17] Continuation du Mellange, 1584; [18] Madrigali a quattro, cinque et sei voci, 1587; [19] William Byrd, Psalmes, Sonets & Songs, 1588; [20] div, Musica Transalpina, I, 1588

Rossana Bertini, Nadia Ragni, soprano; Elena Carzaniga, contralto; Giuseppe Maletto, Raffaele Giordani, Paolo Borgonovo, tenor; Marco Scavazza, baritone; Daniele Carnovitch, bass

Orlando furioso is one of the most famous poems in history. It was written by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) who began writing it in 1506. In its first form it was published in 1516 in 40 cantos, divided over stanzas of eight lines each. It immediately found response in all echelons of society. Stanzas from the poem were sung by cantastatorie - a kind of wandering minstrels - at the markets of the towns of Central and Northern Italy. It led Ariosti to rework his poem in order to make them even more singable. He also added six cantos; the result was printed in 1532. This edition led to a large number of settings of the various stanzas by Italian and foreign composers. To give some idea of its popularity: this edition found 155 reprints, and was translated in several languages. Giuseppe Maletto mentions that in the decades around the middle of the 16th century about 700 settings were written.

The story takes places in the time of Charlemagne who is involved in a war against the Saracens. Orlando is one of Charlemagne's paladins. He falls in love with the pagan princess Angelica and they get involved in various adventures. When Angelica then falls in love with the Saracen knight Medoro Orlando goes mad and travels through Europe destroying everything that is in his way. The poem not only describes the journey of Orlando, Ariosto also saw his poem as a journey. It begins with the expression of his ideal of the unity of poetry and music: "Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing, of courtesies, and many a daring feat". That is also the first piece in the programme, a setting by Hoste da Reggio. It ends with settings by Alessandro Striggio of the two last stanzas in which Ariosto compares the end of his poem with his return home, being greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of illustrious characters.

The programme not only spans the poem from beginning to end, it is also a survey of the various ways in which composers dealt with these texts. Ariosto himself never experienced the popularity of his poem among composers. Only one setting was published in his lifetime: Queste non son più lagrime che fuore by Bartolomeo Tromboncino. It was printed in 1517 in the form of a frottola, and shows little connection between text and music. On this disc it is preceded by settings of the same stanza by Philippe Verdelot and Giaches de Wert. That is particularly illuminating as the differences in regard to the connection between words and music are striking.

There are also differences among the later madrigals. De Wert gives considerable independence to the various voices, for instance in Non tanto il bel palazzo è sì eccellente. This is immediately followed by Era il bel viso, quale esser suole by Cipriano de Rore in which a rather dense polyphony dominates. The settings by Alessandro Striggio contain some drastic effects, for instance the first line of Non rumor di tamburi o suon di trombe: "No roll of drums, no trumpets' peal gave warning of the amorous assault."

The madrigals are not performed in chronological order but follow the progress of Ariosto's poem, beginning with the first and ending with the last stanza. As a result madrigals of different styles and character alternate and this guarantees a maximum of variety. All madrigals are performed with one voice per part, except the very first which is sung by the whole ensemble.

The first time I heard this ensemble was at the 2011 Festival Early Music Utrecht which was a most rewarding experience. The singers are all seasoned performers from the Italian early music scene. They have worked together for many years in later repertoire, in particular from the first half of the 17th century. Fairly recently they decided that it was time to explore the madrigal repertoire of the 16th century. This disc is the first fruit of their musical journey, and it's a bull's-eye. In the madrigals where the various parts get some independence the voices show their individual qualities. But they also blend perfectly, which comes particularly to the fore in the pieces which are dominated by polyphony. The delivery is very good and moments of strong expression are fully explored.

The booklet includes an informative essay about Ariosto and how his poem was received in Italy and elsewhere as well as personal notes by Giuseppe Maletto. I am a little confused about the madrigal in two parts by William Byrd. The booklet gives the Psalmes, Sonets & Songs of 1558 as the source of the first part, but the second should have been published in the collection Musica Transalpina of that same year. It is told that its original was written in English with the title But not soon, from green stock. But I can't find none of these titles in the work-list in New Grove.

The repertoire on this disc is of supreme quality, and so are the performances of La Compagnia del Madrigale.

Johan van Veen (© 2012)

Relevant links:

La Compagnia del Madrigale

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