musica Dei donum

CD reviews

Mogens PEDERSON (1585 - 1623): Madrigali a cinque voci, Libro primo (1608)

Musica Ficta
Dir: Bo Holten

rec: Nov 2001 & Feb 2002, Humlebaek, Torpen Kapel
Dacapo - 8.224219 (© 2003) (57'42")

Amor, per tua mercè; Care lagrime mie; Come esser può; Dimmi, caro ben mio; Donna, mentre i’vi miro; Ecco la Primavera; Et ella all’hor spiegò; Io non credea già mai; Lascia, semplice, lascia; Madonn’, Amor ed io; Morirò, cor mio; Nell’ apparir dell’ amorosa Aurora; Non voglio più servire; O che soave baccio; S’io rido et scherzo; Se del mio lagrimare; Se nel partir; Son vivo e non son vivo; T’amo mia vita; Tra queste verdi fronde; Tutti presero all’hora

Malene Nordtorp, Elisabeth Holmertz, soprano, Rie Koch, mezzo-soprano, Helen Rossil, contralto, Christian Hauskov, John Kjoller, tenor, Hans Henrik Raaholt, bass

Many countries in Europe once experienced a period of political power and economic wealth, which created a 'Golden Age' with arts and sciences flourishing. At the time England had its 'Elizabethan Era' and Venice was a centre of culture Danmark had its 'Christian IV period'. Like Elizabeth Christian IV was a great connoisseur and lover of the arts, and ready to spend enormous sums of money to show his wealth and status to the outside world, in particular other rulers and courts in Europe. Competition was without any doubt an essential element in the demonstration of pomp and splendour. As music at the courts in Europe was highly international, it is no surprise that foreign composers were attracted to write and perform music at the court in Copenhagen. The most famous of them were John Dowland and Heinrich Schütz.

There were also some Danish composers who contributed to the flourishing of music. Unfortunately very few works by Danish composers have survived. Music music written for the Danish court has been fallen victim to fires. From the period before 1800 only a small number of collections by Danish composers are extant. Most of them are Italian madrigals by composers like Borchgrevinck, Brachrogge and Pederson.

Like many other composers from all over Europe Mogens Pederson went to Italy to study the newest trends in music. When he was an apprentice in the King's cantori Pederson was sent to Italy in 1599, accompanied by Borchgrevinck, on a one-year study trip. In 1605 he went to Venice again, for a period of four years this time, to study with Giovanni Gabrieli. Usually composers who had spent some time with the great master published a collection of madrigals, showing the result of their studies. Therefore Pederson published his Madrigali a cinque voci, Libro primo in 1608. It contains 21 madrigals, some of which in two parts.

Later on Pederson went to England, perhaps to visit Queen Anne, sister of Christian IV, who was married to King James I. In 1618 he was appointed as deputy chapelmaster, a position he held until his death in 1623.

The first collection of madrigals shows that Pederson was a fine composer who knew how to set Italian texts to music. There are several passages with typical Italian madrigalisms. In this collection we find mostly the kind of texts which composers preferred for writing madrigals, usually about (unhappy) love. In particular here harmony was an important device to illustrate the content of the text. As far as expressiveness is concerned, Pederson is somewhat moderate in comparison with the Italian masters of the madrigal or even Heinrich Schütz.

The amount of expression is difficult to assess, though, on the basis of this recording. "Musica Ficta is a professional vocal ensemble that cultivates virtuoso ensemble singing in all its nuances - not least works from the Golden Age of vocal polyphony, the Renaissance", according to the booklet. It lists seven singers, but doesn't tell whether they all sing in every madrigal.

The main problem of this recording is a general lack of differentiation. Most madrigals are sung forte or fortissimo, and the expression of the text is limited. The way of singing here is too straightforward and perhaps more suitable to motets and masses than to madrigals. The acoustical circumstances aren’t ideal either. The recording was made in a chapel, whereas for this kind of repertoire one would like a more intimate atmosphere. But in the end more intimacy doesn't help when the singers don't show much sensitivity to the material they are dealing with.

I can recommend this recording only to those who are very curious to know what Pederson's music is like. If you want a recording of madrigals just to enjoy, this disc is not the best buy.

Johan van Veen (© 2003)

Relevant links:

Musica Ficta

CD Reviews