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Camillo CORTELLINI (1561 - 1630): Terzo libro de' madrigali a cinque voci

Coro da Camera di Bologna; Duo di flauti dolci; Enrico Volontieri, harpsichord
Dir: Pier Paolo Scattolin

rec: Sept 28 & Nov 30, 2007 / April 11, 2008, Bologna, Certosa (Chiesa di S. Girolamo)
Tactus - TC 560301 (© 2009) (43'08")

Camillo Cortellini is one of the many Italian composers from around 1600 which are almost completely forgotten today. Many of them are brought to our attention by the Italian label Tactus. Over the years I have discovered several unknown masters thanks to their recordings. This time it is Cortellini, who composed sacred and secular works and mainly worked in Bologna.

He received his first musical education from his father Gaspare, who was a member of the famous Concerto Palatino in Bologna. He then became a pupil of Alfonso Ganassi, with whom he studied the trombone and counterpoint. In 1577 he also entered the Concerto Palatino, and in 1613 became its director. In addition he worked as singer and trombonist in the San Petronio basilica in Bologna.

Cortellini published three collections with madrigals; the second book was the first edition of music to be printed in Bologna. The first and second book have been preserved incomplete; some partbooks are missing. The third book, which is performed here, was printed in 1586 and was dedicated to his former teacher Alfonso Ganassi.

In his liner notes Pier Paolo Scattolin writes that "in this collection the style of the arioso madrigal is clearly exemplified through the qualities of sweetness and soavitą. This approach implies an intentional loosening of the polyphonic fabric, a marked focus on the melodic line (generally given to the highest voice), and the employment of dance rhythms tied to melodic variations in the repeated sections". He also refers to the descriptive character of a number of madrigals, which come close to the madrigal comedies Orazio Vecchi was especially famous for.

In these liner notes the musical director of the ensemble explains the connection between text and music in every single piece on this disc. This is very helpful for those who don't understand Italian, as the booklet doesn't give translations of the madrigals. This could restrain music lovers from buying this disc, which is a big shame as the music is very nice to listen to. In addition the ensemble gives fine performances.

The vocal ensemble consists of 11 singers; each madrigal is performed by a selection of five singers from this group. They have all beautiful voices which blend well. They are accompanied by a harpsichord, and in some items two recorders are playing colla parte with two of the voices. The last madrigal is an ode to the printer of the collection, Giovanni Rossi, and has the character of a canzonetta. Here the ensemble is joined by percussion.

This is a most enjoyable collection of madrigals, which contain many passages in which the text is eloquently translated into music. Pier Paolo Scattolin states that the connections between text and music are often very subtle. This is "typical of musica reservata: an exceedingly refined style of madrigals destined for an audience of connoiseurs and expert performers."

Expert performers the members of the ensemble certainly are, and that means that the text expression in these madrigals is perfectly realised. The programme has been well recorded, although a bit too indirect. I had liked a little more intimacy, and as a result the text had been more clearly audible. Some madrigals consist of two parts, but the gaps between those parts are too large, suggesting these are individual pieces. But that is only a minor blot on an otherwise very good and recommendable production.

Johan van Veen (© 2010)

Relevant links:

Coro da Camera di Bologna

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