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Luca MARENZIO (1553-1599)
Primo Libro di Madrigali a cinque voce (1580)
Liquide perle Amor [1.55]
Ohimé, dov’é il mio ben [3.00]
Spuntavan giá [4.09]
Quando I vostri begl’occhi [2.33]
Tirsi morir volea [6.29]
Dolorosi martir [4.48]
Che fa oggi il mio sole [1.43]
Lasso ch’io ardo [2.37]
Venuta era Madonna [5.02]
Madonna mia gentil [2.05]
Cantava la piu vaga pastorella [2.37]
Questa di verd’erbette [2.10]
Partirò dunque [2.50]
O tu che fra le selve [4.29]
Dolci affetti (1582)
In quel ben nato [3.39]
Or piend’altro desio [2.36]
Giovanni Maria NANINO (1543-1607)
Mentre ti fui si grato [1.54]
Giovanni Battista MOSCAGLIA (1559-1590)
Mentri ti fui si cara
Giovanni de MACQUE (1548-1614)
Or un laccio, un ardore
Francesco SORIANO (1548-1621)
Lasso dunque, che fia
Annibale ZOILO (1537-1592)
Benché senza mentire [ 2.27]
Primo fiore della ghirlanda musicale (1577): Donna bella e crudel [3.40]
La Campagnia del Madrigale (Rossana Bertini, Francesca Cassinari (sopranos); Elena Carzaniga (alto); Giuseppe Maletto, Raffaele Giordani (tenors); Daniele Carnovich (bass)); with Paolo Borgonovo (tenor); Marco Ricagno (bass)
rec. 1-6 September 2010, February 2011, Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Maria del Monte, Carmelo al Colletto, Rolett, Italy
GLOSSA GCD922802 [67.37]

“Luca Marenzio was the greatest purely madrigal composer in the whole history of the Italian madrigal, and the one in whose hands it reached its culmination with a musical life of its own not slavishly dependent on its poetry” - the words of Jerome Roche (‘The Madrigal’, Hutchinson, London, 1972). Some may consider Cipriano de Rore the more significant figure (d.1565). He was of an earlier generation and also wrote much sacred music. If you had any further doubts about Marenzio’s greatness just bear in mind that John Dowland was desperate to go to Rome and study with him. You should listen to this marvellous recording of what was a very popular publication at the time: the 1st Book for five voices.
Don't get confused as I did at first. Marenzio wrote another 1st Book. That was in 1585 but for four voices, (recorded by Concerto Italiano on Op 111 30-117). There was never a second book for four voices. Both books are outstanding and very significant. Thomas Morley and other English composers must have known them. They were influenced by certain harmonies and by the texts which often involve shepherds and shepherdesses, lovers who wish to ‘die’ for love, with its double meaning and allusions to tender freshly-gathered flowers plaited with green grasses - Quest di ver’ erbette. Marenzio had moments when he liked to slip to the chord on the flattened leading note as in Spuntavan gia per far. This is also alittle trick, slightly too often played by Morley. We also hear five part textures moving between homophony and polyphony with much word-painting and imitative counterpoint.
Marenzio later became much more experimental in the use of chromatic harmony as Rore had done. He also came under the spell of some of his contemporaries like Wert and Gesualdo in the use of what we would call sudden key changes and false relations as can be heard in his last publication of 1599. These hardly affected the English composers, who continued to work in the style of his entirely popular 1st book. A madrigal like Dolorosi martir, fieri tormenti would no doubt have caused much discussion with its gorgeous dissonances.
Enjoyment and understanding of this music is governed by the performances. La Campagnia del Madrigale, recently formed, are superb. They are passionate, beautifully balanced with perfect intonation and clear diction. Their clear understanding of the text is coupled with evident knowledge of where it is going. I gave a strong thumbs-up to their first disc ‘Orlando Furioso’ (Arcana A363) in 2011. David Vickers in his recent review of this new disc (October 2013) talks of his “jaw dropping” at the quality of the music and of the performers’ “astonishing sonorities”.
The collection was dedicated to Cardinal Luigi d’Este who was Marenzio’s patron. Other Marenzio collections were dedicated to the cardinal’s relations in Ferrara who were also patrons of Tasso both Torquato and Bernardo whose poem ‘Ohimé, dov’é iI mio ben’ is the second of the set. Marenzio also set Guarini (Tirsi morir volea) as did so many and also Jacobo Sannazaro, a Napolese poet.
There is more to this CD than this 1st Book. Appended are further madrigals from a collection of 1582 entitled ‘Dolci affeti’. These are by six composers including Marenzio who may well have collaborated on the project. For me Soriano’s Lasso dunque, che fia with its echo effects was the most interesting. The texts are by a Florentine-born poet Luigi Alamanni (d.1556). These composers gave themselves the name ‘Musici di Roma’.
To end there is a very believable reconstruction of a madrigal Donna bella e crudel which may well be the first known piece by Marenzio. It dates from 1577 when he was in his early twenties.
This is a fascinating and engrossing disc. The extensive booklet notes by Marco Bizzarini are engaging and detailed. All the sung texts are provided and well translated. There are also pleasing rehearsal photos of the performers. Let’s hope that they can keep up this high standard and perhaps one day tackle Marenzio’s little known Sixth book.
Gary Higginson