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"Pianger di dolcezza: La grande poesia italiana messa in musica"

Jill Feldman (soprano), Mara Galassi (harp), Karl-Ernst Schröder (chitarrone)
Stradivarius - Str 33606
(2001; 69'19")

anon: Capriccio detto Sueglatoio; Giulio Caccini: Amarilli mia bella; Belle rose porporine; Dolcissimo sospiro; Sfogava con le stelle; Tutto 'l di piango; Bellerofonte Castaldi: Capriccio detto Chiacchierino; Capriccio detto Harmafrodito; Sigismondo d'India: Amico hai vinto; Cruda Amarilli; Lamento d'Olimpia; Ma che? Squallido e oscuro; Mentre ch'il cor; Torna il sereno zefiro; Tutto 'l di piango; Un di soletto; Hieronymus Kapsberger: 2 Preludie; Toccata VII; Paolo Quagliati: Toccata dell'Ottavo Tuono; Giovanni Maria Trabaci: Consonanze Stravaganti; Toccata I a 4

This CD is devoted to monodies by the two main representatives of the 'nuova musica', the new musical style which put the text in the centre, to which the music was the servant. Giulio Caccini is generally considered - and considered himself - the "inventor" of this style. He took a clear distance from the polyphonic style, which dominated the music of the 16th century. His younger colleague, Sigismondo d'India, considered polyphony and monody as complementary. Apart from five books with monodies, which were published under the title of Le Musiche, he also wrote polyphonic madrigals.
This recording shows the differences between both composers. D'India goes much further in the relationship between text and music. Therefore his vocal parts are much more unpredictable - I can't see listeners easily remember D'India's monodies after having heard them just once. Caccini, on the other hand, writes monodies which are often more smooth and easy to listen to. The famous Amarilli mia bella is a good example, but also the light strophic aria Belle rose porporine is easily to memorize. Another difference is the use of harmony: d'India's monodies are often surprising and "modern", in the sense of Gesualdo's madrigals. The frequent dissonances are all part of an attempt to illustrate the content of the text as strongly as possible.
The use of strange harmonies is another feature of the time: many composers were experimenting with harmony. The instrumental pieces on this CD are a vivid illustration. They are no less expressive than the vocal monodies.

This new recording is most welcome. It is surprising that a relatively small number of the monodies of both composers have been recorded. In particular D'India still is an unjustly neglected composer.
One of the topics Caccini wrote about in the preface to his collection Nuove Musiche of 1602 is ornamentation. He warned against overdoing it. Obviously Jill Feldman has kept that in mind, since her ornamentation is quite sober. But if she adds ornaments, they sound very "natural", as if they have been written by the composer himself. That is also the result of the fact that Ms Feldman's does sing more 'legato' than usual. If one is convinced - like I am - that music basically should be articulated the same way as the language is spoken, this is probably more "authentic", since Italians don't articulate as precise as in particular the Germans do. In my - non-Italian - ears Jill Feldman's performance does sound very "natural".
The point where I think Ms Feldman could have gone further is the variation in the ornamentation. I have hardly heard the 'trillo', for example, a typical ornament of that time, which disappeared afterwards. I also think that dynamic differences could have been applied more frequently. The esclamazione is used convincingly in the highly dramatic Lamento d'Olimpia by D'India, but there could have been more dynamic shades.
The support by Mara Galassi and Karl-Ernst Schröder is excellent, enhancing the expression of the monodies. But the interpretation of the instrumental works is also very dramatic - a kind of "monodies without words".

To sum up, this is a great recording of still too much neglected repertoire, which I would strongly recommend to anybody interested in the early stages of the baroque.

Johan van Veen (© 2002)

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