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Il Trionfo di Dori

The King's Singers

rec: Sept 10 - 13, 2013, Ascot (Berkshire), Ascot Priory
Signum Classics - SIGCD414 ( 2015) (72'46")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - translations: E
Cover, track-list & booklet

Felice ANERIO (c1560-1614): Sotto l'ombroso speco; Giammateo ASOLA (c1532-1609): In una verde piaggia; Ippolito BACCUSI (c1550-1609): Un giorno a Pale sacro; Ludovico BALBI (c1545-1604): Mentre pastori e ninfe; Lelio BERTANI (1554-1612): Dori quest'ombre e l'aura; Pietro Andrea BONINI (c1550-c1605): Quando lieta vezzosa; Paolo BOZZI (c1550-c1628): All'ombra d'un bel faggio; Giovanni CAVACCIO (c1556-1626): Giunta qui Dori, e pastorelli amanti; Oratio COLOMBANI (c1550-1595): All'apparir di Dori anzi del sole; Gasparo COSTA (fl 1580-1590): Mentr' quest'ombr'intorno; Giovanni CROCE (c1557-1609): Ove tra l'herbe e fiori; Giulio EREMITA (c1550-1600): Smeraldi eran le rive il fium'argento; Giovanni FLORIO (fl 1555-1598): Pi trasparente velo; Giovanni GABRIELI (c1556-1612): Se cantano gl'augelli; Giovanni Giacomo GASTOLDI (c1554-1609): Al mormorar de liquidi cristalli; Ruggiero GIOVANELLI (c1560-1625): Quand'apparisti o vag'o amata Dori; Leonte LEONI (c1550-1627): Di pastorali accenti; Giovanni DE MACQUE (c1550-1614): Vaghe ninfe selvagge; Luca MARENZIO (c1554-1599): Leggiadre ninfe a pastorelli amanti; Tiburtio MASSAINO (c1550-c1608): S le fiorite sponde; Philippus DE MONTE (1521-1603): Lungo le chiare linfe; Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (c1525-1594): Quando dal terzo cielo; Costanzo PORTA (1528-1601): Da lo spuntar de matutini albori; Alfonso PRETI (fl 1586-1592): Ninfe e danzar venite; Ippolito SABINO (c1550-1593): Dove sorge piacevole; Annibale STABILE (c1535-1595): Nel tempo che ritorna; Alessandro STRIGGIO (c1536-1592): Eran ninfe e pastori; Orazio VECCHI (c1550-1605): Hor ch'ogni vento tace; Gasparo ZERTO (c1550-c1605): L'inargentato lido

David Hurley, Timothy Wayne-Wright, alto; Paul Phoenix, tenor; Christopher Bruerton, Christopher Gabbitas, baritone; Jonathan Howard, bass

In 1601 Thomas Morley published a collection of madrigals in honour of Queen Elizabeth, The Triumphs of Oriana. It included 25 madrigals by 23 different composers and every madrigal ended with the phrase: "Long live fair Oriana", referring to Elizabeth. Morley was not original in putting together such a collection: he was inspired by a comparable collection of 29 madrigals which had been published in 1592 under the title Il Trionfo di Dori. This edition is the subject of the present disc.

It was not published by a composer who himself contributed to the collection, such as Morley in The Triumphs of Oriana, but by the Venetian music printer Angelo Gardano. It was dedicated to Leonardo Sanudo (1544-1607), a nobleman from an old and respected Venetian family. It is assumed that the madrigals were written in honour of Sanudo's wife, Elisabetta Giustinian, whom he married in 1577. Every madrigal ends with the same line: "Viva la bella Dori" (Long live beautiful Dori). According to David Hurley in his liner-notes it is not known whether the madrigals were written at the occasion of their marriage or later as a commemoration of that event. In the former case they would be much older than the date of publication. However, considering the year of birth of some contributors that seems hardly possible. Most of them were in their twenties at the time of Leonardo and Elisabetta's marriage and it seems unlikely that at that time their reputation was such that they were invited to contribute to such an undertaking. Felice Anerio and Ruggiero Giovannelli were born as late as around 1560. Therefore we may assume that it was rather the commemoration of the pair's wedding which was the reason for the publication.

All these madrigals are scored for six voices. The poets are all different, and few of them will ring a bell with music-lovers. The same probably goes for many composers. Ippolito Baccusi, Alfonso Preti, Paolo Bozzi and Gasparo Zerto - to name just a few - are unknown quantities and very rarely if ever they appear on concert programmes or on disc. A music encyclopedia like New Grove includes mostly very scarce information about them. But there are also some famous names in the list of composers although several of them are better known as composers in other genres. That is the case with Giovanni Gabrieli who is best known for his polychoral music. Palestrina whose madrigal Quando dal terzo cielo closes the programme, is almost exclusively known for his sacred music. The same goes for Philippus de Monte but in his case - in contrast to Palestrina - that is not justified: his secular oeuvre is far larger than his sacred output and he was famous for his madrigals across Europe; today these are seldom performed. Orazio Vecchi, on the other hand, is almost exclusively known for his madrigal comedies; he also wrote many canzonette.

Also represented is one of the most famous madrigal composers of his time, Luca Marenzio. Although the madrigals were specifically written for this collection, judging by the identical closing line of every poem, it didn't prevent Marenzio from including his contribution in his fifth book of six-part madrigals which appeared one year before, in 1591. Other composers may have done the same but because of the scarce information about them and the lack of work-lists that is impossible to check.

Obviously one will notice many madrigalisms, especially on words which refer to singing (cantando, cantava) and dancing (danzando). In Un giorno a Pale sacro (Baccusi) the word "iterar" (echoing) is repeated several times and "mille voci" (thousands of voices) in Croce's Ove tra l'herbe e fiori moves several times from one voice or group of voices to the other. Gastoldi dwells on the word "mormorar" (murmering) in the opening line of Al mormorar de liquidi cristalli. There are also clear differences between one composer and the other. Philippus de Monte (Lungo le chiare linfe) doesn't give any special attention to words like "mormorando" and "danzando", and the closing line "Viva la bella Dori" is set homophonically and rather simple, without any repetition. That is very different in Massaino's S le fiorite sponde in which the first word "viva" is repeated many times. Considering the uplifting character of these madrigals - which take us to the Arcadian world of shepherds and nymphs - one should not expect any dark streaks nor any harmonic experiments. It is all happiness and good humour here.

That hasn't any negative impact on their quality. This is a very fine set and if you like renaissance madrigals you certainly will enjoy this recording. That is also due to the performances by The King's Singers who show a great sensitivity towards the text. I am not sure whether they sing all the madrigals at the pitch at which they were printed. Such pieces may have been sung mostly with women at the top lines. But we probably should not make too much of this: music without instrumental accompaniment could - to a certain extent - be adapted to the voices which were available. I have very much enjoyed these performances; only here and there a certain shrillness in the upper register made me think that a group like La Compagnia del Madrigale may surpass these six male singers. But as this collection is hardly known and only one other recording is available (Gruppo Vocale rsi & Tsi; Tactus, 2014) - which I haven't heard - this disc is not to be missed.

The booklet includes the texts and translations but there is very little information about the music. A little more about the poets and the composers would not have been amiss.

Johan van Veen ( 2016)

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