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"Amorosi pensieri - Songs for the Habsburg Court"

Cinquecento

rec: Sept 1 - 3, 2010, Cologne, Deutschlandfunk (Kammermusiksaal)
Hyperion - CDA68053 (© 2014) (60'31")
Liner-notes: E/D/F
Booklet

Jean GUYOT de Ch‚telet (1512?-1588): En lieux d'esbatz m'assault melancolie a 6; Je suis amoureux d'une fille a 4; L'arbre d'amour ung fruict d'amaritude a 4; Tel en mesdict qui pour soy la desire a 6; Vous estes si doulce et benigne a 6; Vous perdez temps de me dire mal d'elle a 6; Philippus DE MONTE (1521-1603): Amorosi pensieri a 6; Anima dolorosa a 5; Con che soavitŗ a 5; O dolci sguardi a 5; Ombra son io a 5; Que me servent mes vers a 5; Sortez regretz a 4; Susanne un jour a 5; Jacob REGNART (c1540-1599): Ach weh der Zeit, die ich verzert a 5; Alarm', alarm' o fidi miei pensieri a 5; Amor, che debbo fare a 5; Chi mi consolerŗ a 5; Du hast mich sollen nemen a 5; Ein Leib nit mehr hat a 3; Venus du und dein Kind a 3; Vola vola pensier a 5; Jacobus VAET (c1529-1567): Amour leal a 4; En l'ombre d'ung buissonet a 4; Sans vous ne puis a 4

Terry Wey, Jakob Huppmann, alto; Tore Tom Denys, Thomas KŁnne, tenor; Tim Scott Whiteley, baritone; Ulfried Staber, bass

In the 16th century the singing of chansons and madrigals was one of the most popular preoccupations at the imperial and royal courts in Europe, the palaces of the aristocracy and the homes of the rich. This explains that such pieces were written in large numbers and were often printed.

One of the most prolific composers of madrigals on Italian texts was Philippe (or Philippus) de Monte. No less than 34 books of madrigals were printed, and a number appeared in anthologies. In addition he composed five books with spiritual madrigals. Today De Monte is overshadowed by his contemporary Orlandus Lassus, and if his music is performed it is mostly his sacred works which are programmed. His madrigals have not always found a positive reception in modern times, as according to some scholars they are short on originality. However, there is certainly not a lack of emotion; in fact, De Monte's music has often an amount of expression which one doesn't find in music of his contemporaries. There is probably a lesser amount of text expression, especially in comparison with Lassus, but De Monte achieves a high grade of expression with different means. During his career his style also developed; it would have been interesting to see that documented here, but unfortunately the booklet omits any indication of the sources from which the madrigals are taken.
De Monte composed only a small number of chansons; these belong to the least-known part of his oeuvre. Susanne un jour was one of the most popular texts in the renaissance. It was first set by Didier Lupi (mid-16th century) and many composers used the upper part of his setting as cantus firmus for their own versions. De Monte is one of the few who completely ignores Lupi's setting and creates a piece entirely of his own invention.

For the most part of his career De Monte was in the service of the Habsburg dynasty, in Vienna and in Prague. He was appointed in 1568 as Kapellmeister to Maximilian II in Vienna, as the successor to Jacobus Vaet. Maximilian had appointed the latter as Kapellmeister in 1554, when he was still Archduke of Austria. Only three secular pieces from his pen are known, which have been recorded here. Jacob Regnart was from Flanders, as all four composers on this disc. He entered the service of Maximilian II as a singer, when Vaet was Kapellmeister. After Maximilian's death he became a member and then vice-Kapellmeister to emperor Rudolf II in Prague. Archduke Ferdinand appointed him as vice-Kapellmeister of his court in Innsbruck in 1582; three years later he raised to the position of Kapellmeister He was held in high regard and became a rich man. His German Lieder for three voices became especially popular; four of them are included here. He pays much attention to the text; Venus du und dein Kind is even strictly homophonic.

In the liner-notes much attention is given to the probably least-known composer: Jean Guyot de Ch‚telet. That seems right as he is the discovery of this disc. He spent most of his career in Flanders; he was already 51 when he succeeded Pieter Maessens as Kapellmeister to Ferdinand I in Vienna. However, his employment didn't last long: the following year Ferdinand died, and his successor Maximilian II founded his own chapel, under the direction of Jacobus Vaet. Guyot returned to Flanders but seems not to have been active as a church musician. But he did compose music and was apparently also active as a teacher. He had a preference for six-part scorings: four of the six chansons recorded here are for six voices which leads to a great density and makes the text hard to understand. However, they have a strong amount of expression, for instance through the use of harmony. In the closing lines of En lieux d'esbatz and Vous estes si doulce et benigne respectively he includes some strong dissonances to depict the text.

The madrigals, chansons and Lieder are performed here with one voice per part which is definitely right, although performances with larger forces are not necessarily wrong. It certainly helps to communicate the texts, even though that was not the main concern of the composers. In the French texts Cinquecento uses a historical pronunciation which is still not common these days. The singing is excellent as we come to expect from this ensemble. It mainly focuses on sacred music, but this disc proves that it is a serious contender in the realm of secular music as well. The recording was made in a relatively small venue, and that has resulted in an intimacy which fits the repertoire perfectly. The choice of music is praiseworthy: De Monte deserves more attention, and his output in the genre of the madrigal has hardly been explored as yet. And Guyot's oeuvre may be rather small, I very much hope to hear more from that, because the chansons recorded here suggest that he was a first-rate composer.

Johan van Veen (© 2014)

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