Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

European Madrigals of around 1600

La bella Ninfa mia
Leggiadre Ninfe e pastorelli amanti

Giovanni Pierluigi Da PALESTRINA
I vaghi fiori e líamorose fronde
Ii bianco e dolce cigno
Lasciate mi morire
Ecco mormorar líonde

Moro lasso al mio duolo
Dolcissima mia vita

Heinrich SCHÜTZ
Ride la primavera

Orlando Di LASSO
Matona mia cara
Giovanni Giacomo GASTOLDI
Speme amorosa
Francisco GUERRERO
Prado verde y florido
Recuerde el alma dormida
Leonhard LECHNER
Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
Gott bíhüte dich

Orlando Di LASSO
Tritt auf den Riegel vor der Tür
Ach Lieb, ich tu dir klagen
Flämisches volkslied
Ich sag ade
Le Cocu
Orlando Di LASSO
Bon jour, mon Coeur
Il est bel et bon?
It was a lover and his lass
Now is the month of Maying

Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone
Adieu, Sweet Amaryllis
The Silver Swan
Weep, O mine Eyes
Hallenser Madrigalisten/Andreas Göpfert
Rec: October 1987.
BERLIN CLASSICS 0093362BC [57.53]
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The madrigal was a very popular form of secular music in the 16th century. While it dates back to the 14th century, its popular form spread from its original base in Florence in the decades between 1520 and 1540, conquering Europe, developing indigenous variations in many countries. This recording gives a panorama of madrigals from composers of various countries: Italy, Germany, France, England and Spain.

Some of the period's greatest composers are included in this recording: Monteverdi, Palestrina and Lasso, who were three of the leading madrigal composers; Schütz and Janequin, who each adopted the madrigal in their own countries, respectively Germany and France; and the English composers Morley, Gibbons and Farmer.

Madrigals are vocal works, featuring only a cappella singing with no instrumental accompaniment. Their development came at a time when music was going beyond its purely sacred role, and dealing with more pedestrian themes. The titles of some of these works show just what their subjects were: It was a lover and his lass; Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone; or Good day, my sweet.

All of these works feature threads of polyphony woven into the fabric of songs that soar with grace and delight. Some of the Italian works, such as the Monteverdi songs are more solemn and introspective, almost sounding as if they should be heard in a church. The Schütz song celebrates the arrival of spring, with a pastoral sound interlaced with arabesques of joyous melodies. The brief song by Clément Janequin, Le Cocu (The Cuckold), has a humorous sound - one can imagine listeners singing along in delight.

The English adopted the madrigal and developed it in a different manner than many of the other composers. This form of music, which is very much a popular form, would later develop into the still popular carolling tradition. Most of the English works on this recording are happy and rhythmic; they, like the Janequin song, give listeners the desire to tap their feet and sing along.

The performances on this recording are good, but suffer from an ensemble that is a bit too large. No specific information is given, but a photo shows about a dozen singers. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, smaller groups can help bring out the unique polyphonic texture of these works. A fine example of this is the Hilliard Ensemble's recording of English and Italian Renaissance Madrigals, on Virgin Veritas. The more limited number of singers, only six, gives the songs a different feel. La Bella Ninfa sounds like a small choir, while the Hilliard recording has a more restrained, more intimate sound.

It is a shame that the texts of these songs are not included in the liner notes. Since the subject matter of the songs is essential, listeners are deprived of fully appreciating these works.

A valuable recording for the variety of works included. Unfortunately, it is somewhat marred by a group of singers that is slightly too large.

Kirk McElhearn


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