> MONTEVERDI Madrigali Erotici e Spirituale [GH]: Classical CD Reviews- Aug 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Madrigali Erotici e Spirituale
Quel augellin che canta (Book IV); Qui Laudes; Sforgava con le stele (Book IV); O Stellae; Armato il cor (Book VIII); Heu bone vir; Parlo miser’o taccio (Book 7); Longe, mi Jesu; Pianto della Madonna; Piagn’e sospira (Book IV); Plorat amate; Si ch’io vorrei morire (Book IV); O Jesu, mea vita; Io mi giovanetta (Book IV); Rutilante in nocte.
Consort of Musick directed by Anthony Rooley
Recorded at Forde Abbey, Dorset, January 1993 and Palazzo Te, Mantua, October 1992
REGIS RRC 1073 [61.09]


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I have often thought that Anthony Rooley’s Consort of Musick were at their best during the period 1988 to 1995 when more or less the same group of singers had been together for a decade or so and when they had, by then, a vast experience in late renaissance music upon which to draw. This CD proves it: a gem of its type. Performances are powerful, direct, accurate, totally in tune and totally committed. The recording is superb. Incidentally I assume that the works, which necessitated continuo organ, were recorded in Italy (the jewel case rather frustratingly does not say) quite how that came about for just a few items would be interesting to know.

And another gripe. I realize that Regis are a budget label but surely in addition to Rooley’s useful sideways essay on the repertoire and the texts in English, why couldn’t we have had the texts in Italian and Latin also beside the translations instead of the tedious and quite extensive biographies on each of these already well known singers which takes over four sides of an eight page booklet? Neither are we told exactly which collections the original secular madrigals come from, the information at the top I have researched myself for the help of readers of this review. The Booklet tells use that the madrigals are selected from Books 4, 6 and 8 yet one is from Book 7!

To understand what this CD is doing I will quote from Rooley’s notes. "The main purpose of this collection … is to contrast these highly coloured sensuous madrigals with their near contemporary re-workings to new (sacred) texts. In 1607 a Milanese priest Aquilino Coppini published the first of three volumes of sacred contrafacta of these highly popular madrigals with Latin devotional texts replacing the amorous verse. What was outward, erotic and theatrical became inward, devotional and thoroughly christianised." So for example a text beginning as in the madrigal ‘Lamento d’Arianne’ (book 6) ‘Let me die / How should I find comfort when my fate is so hard / my grief so miserable’ becomes in the ‘Pianto della Madonna’ ‘Now let me die, my son / How could a mother find comfort in such piercing anguish / such fierce torment’ In other words a lament for the virgin at the foot of the cross.

Some individual words have not had to be altered at all. Because it is a long work, probably from a now lost opera, the madrigal is not recorded only the contrafactum, so a better example, which is recorded, is the madrigal ‘Armato il cor’: ‘I come from the realm of love prepared for battle … But I cannot win if I want your love’. Its contrafactum is ‘Heu Bone Vir’ with its text ‘… fight steadfastly, attack, defend, stand firm, with prayer you will repulse him’ (the Devil). As you can see, complimentary similes are used and the original sense remains as the music with its fanfare figures demands.

The delightful madrigal ‘Io mi son Giovanetta’ – ‘I am young and I laugh and sing’ is transported into a Christmas motet ‘Gleaming golden in the night angelic choirs rejoice’ (‘Rutilante in Nocte’)

So, a highly enjoyable recording and a fascinating insight into the extraordinary and painstaking art of not allowing the Devil to have the best tunes.

Gary Higginson


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