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Dalla Casa: Il Secondo Libro de Madrigali a Cinque Voci con i passaggi

Il Terzo Suono
Dir: Gian Paolo Fagotto
rec: Nov. 1999, Clauzetto (Pordenone), Pieve d'Asio
Arts - 47561-2 (79'21")

Dalla Casa: Il Secondo Libro de Madrigali; Il Vero Modo di diminuir: Petit Jacquet (anon) (2 settings); Dalla Gostena: Fantasia II

Elena Cecchi Fedi and Laura Fabris (soprano), Roberto Balconi (alto), Gian Paolo Fagotto (tenor), Antonio Abete (bass); Jean Tubéry (cornet), Vittorio Ghielmi (viola da gamba & viola bastarda), Francesco Tapella (lute, theorbo); Adriano Dallapè (organ & harpsichord)

The Italian composer Girolamo dalla Casa (c1530 - 1601) is mainly known for his arrangements of vocal works by other composers. He was one of the main representatives of the art of 'passaggi' or 'diminuzioni'. A number of them are included in his book 'Il Vero Modo di Diminuir con tutte le sorte di stromenti' (1584). Far less known is that he also composed madrigals of his own. This recording of the second book of madrigals is a world premiere.
These are high quality madrigals, performed in different manners: some are performed vocally, in others one singer is accompanied by instruments. As the title pages suggests, the singers are adding 'passaggi' while performing.

The singers in the ensemble are well known representatives of the present generation of early music specialists in Italy.

The booklet contains an interesting essay by Gianpaolo Fagotto on this collection of madrigals and "interpretational decisions".
As far as the instruments are concerned, I would like to quote what he has to say:
"As regards the choice of instruments, I followed Dalla Casa's preferences. In his tract Girolamo only dedicated a separate chapter to the cornet, viola bastarda and the human voice. The cornet was Girolamo's instrument, but also a specially noble instrument as it produces a sound closest to the human voice, most similar to its nuances and articulation.
The viola bastarda is an extraordinary instrument. Its main characteristic is the ability to play in all vocal ranges, from soprano to bass. It is mainly used to play 'alla bastarda', e.g. to select the passages from all voices which are particularly pronounced or musically interesting, and to combine them with the help of Diminuzioni, thus dampening the effect of the possibly rather sudden changes from one voice to the other. Even though it is not polyphonic, this instrument is capable of summarizing the sequence of a complete madrigal with five voices. Besides one piece which was taken from Il Vero Modo di Diminuir, this CD also contains an 'alla bastarda' adaptation of the madrigal for five voices Mentre fra l'aure stelle, which I have made".

I want to recommend this CD strongly to everyone interested in this kind of repertoire. The performance is excellent, but this CD also gives a good insight into the different ways in which madrigals were performed. As far as I can remember this is the first time I have heard the viola bastarda, and it is a gorgeous instrument.

The CDs on this label are very cheap, so there is hardly a reason to miss this one. And it contains almost 80 minutes of great music!

Johan van Veen (© 2002)

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