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Benedetto PALLAVICINO (1551 - 1601): "Madrigali su testi del Guarini"

Daltrocanto; Ugo Nastrucci, lutea
Dir: Dario Tabbia

rec: Sept 2005, Clausetto (Pordeone)
Pan Classics - PC 10280 (R) (© 2013) (56'20")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - no translations
Cover & track-list

Giovanni Battista DALLA GOSTENA (c1558-1593): Fantasia XIIIa; Benedetto PALLAVICINO: Ahi, come a un vago sol [3]; Amor, i' parto [3]; Ch'io non t'ami [3]; Cor mio, deh non languire [3]; Cruda Amarilli - Ma grideran [3]; Deh, come invan chiedete [5]; Era l'anima miaa [3]; Felice che vi miraa [4]; Io disleale? [3]; Io mi sento morir [4]; Negatemi pura [5]; Occhi un tempo mia vita [1]; T'amo mia vita [2]; Una farfalla [4]; Giovanni Antonio TERZI (fl c1580-1600): Balletto Alemannoa; Ballo Il Alemannoa; Fantasiaa; Preludioa

Sources: [1] Il quarto libro de madrigali, 1588; [2] Il quinto libro de madrigali, 1593; [3] Il sesto libro de madrigali, 1600; [4] Il settimo libro de madrigali, 1604; [5] L’ottavo libro de madrigali, 1612

Alena Dantcheva, Roberta Giua, soprano; Alessandro Carmignani, alto; Gian Paolo Fagotto, Gianluca Ferrarini, tenor; Walter Testolin, bass

History can be very unfair. Take Benedetto Pallavicino. In his time he was celebrated as one of the finest composers of madrigals. However, in our time he is hardly more than a footnote in music history, and his name seldom appears on discs and concert programmes. That makes this reissue of a disc with madrigals all the more welcome.

Scholars take Pallavicino more seriously these days, especially thanks to the work of the late Denis Arnold. He made extensive study of Pallavicino's later madrigals and put them in their historical context. Later research has confirmed the high standard and the historical significance of his oeuvre. The fact that for a long time he wasn't fully appreciated may have been the result of Claudio Monteverdi's derogative attitude towards him. He entered the service of the Gonzagas in Mantua in 1590, when Pallavicino was also working at the court. It seems that they were involved in a strong competition for the position of maestro di cappella. It was Pallavicino who got it in 1596, in succession to Giaches de Wert. When Pallavicino died in 1601 Monteverdi made another attempt to acquire that position. In a letter he called Giaches de Wert and several other composers "excellent" but Pallavicino just "competent". Monteverdi also regularly "improved" some of Pallavicino's madrigals. Great people can be narrow-minded.

Pallavicino's madrigals were printed in ten books between 1579 and 1612; the last two books were published posthumously. Two of these books included madrigals for four and for six voices respectively, but the far majority of his madrigals is for five voices, including those of the fourth to eighth book. From these the pieces at the present disc are taken. All the madrigals are settings of texts by the famous poet Giovanni Battista Guarini. Cruda Amarilli, Cor mio and T'amo mia vita are among the most frequently set poems from his pen.

Pallavicino's later madrigals pave the way for the stile nuovo which was to make its appearence in the early 17th century. There is a close connection between text and music. Contrapuntal passages alternate with homophonic episodes. Sometimes the number of voices is reduced to two or three. Pallavicino also makes use of harmony for expressive reasons. Especially in Cruda Amarilli several episodes are set to strong dissonances.

For those who don't understand Italian the relationship between text and music is hard to grasp as this disc comes without any translations of the lyrics. Especially in this kind of music that is a serious omission. Even so, I strongly recommend this disc to any lover of the art of the late-renaissance madrigal. Even without fully understanding the text one can enjoy these pieces which says a lot about Pallavicino's communicative skills. It also says much about the performances of Daltrocanto. The text is treated with great care, through a precise articulation and an effective dynamic shading. The singers show a perfect command of the idiom. The ensemble is very good. There is a slight vibrato now and then in one of the sopranos, but it is hardly disturbing.

The madrigals are interspersed with lute pieces by two composers from Pallavicino's time. Those are nicely played, but personally I would have preferred some more madrigals. This disc proves that Pallavicino's oeuvre deserves to be more thoroughly explored.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

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