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Cipriano de RORE (c.1505-1565)
Portrait of the Artist as a Starved Dog
L’inffabil bontà del Redentore [2.16]
Era il belviso suo qual’esser suole [4.35]
Conviench’ovunque sua sempre cortese [4.41]
Come la note ogni fiammella é viva [2.35]
Alcun non puo saper [2.41]
L’inconstantia che seco han [3.09]
La giustitia immortale [2.13]
O moret eterno fin [3.23]
Se ben il duol [5.28]
Mia benigna fortuna [7.28]
Beato mi direi [5.35]
Poi che m’invita Amore [5.33]
Dissimulare etiam sperasti [9.29]
Se come il biondo crin de la mia Filli [2.08]
Mentre, lumi maggior [4.32]
Philippe VERDELOT (c.1480-1530)
Questa non son piu lagrime [7.16]
Guillaume MORLAYE (c.1510- ?)
Non son io che pal’in viso [2.09]
Grandelavoix/Bjorn Schmelzer
rec. 2016, Church of Saint John the Evangelist, Beaufays, Belgium
GLOSSA GCDP32114 [75.22]

To try to give you some idea of the way Grandelavoix approach their performance style in general and on this CD in particular, let me offer you two quotations. The first is from Jerome Roche’s book ‘The Madrigal’ (Hutchinson University Library 1972) in which he writes, on page 39: “…. (de Rore’s) prolific madrigal output is wholly serious in character – the light villanelle type did not interest him – and he is more concerned to capture the mood of the texts through musical devices of word-painting: each word must be set as expressively as possible in each vocal line”. But how did the original performers do this? In his booklet essay Bjorn Schmelzer, the director of this ensemble quotes Luigi Zenobi (c.1580): “The singer must know how to sing the piece in its simple form, that is without any passagio, but only with grace, trillo, tremolo, ondeggiamento (roll) and esclamatione”. This leads to an often-declamatory style of performance in which one voice not only stands out, seemingly randomly, but that voice forces the tone quality in order to add a special ‘esclamatione’. The effect can appear shocking, often mannered and sometimes, it seems to me, arguably ugly perhaps deliberately so. This has been their performance style on other CD’s (all recorded on Glossa) for example on their disc of Alexander Agricola (GCD P32105). But it also leads to many intensely expressive moments for example in the moving Poi che m’invita Amore but it can lead to tempi which are too slow to sustain even for these technically fine singers for example in the longest madrigal Dissimulare etiam sperasti which tells of the agony of Dido. And finally it can remind the listener that the madrigal books of Gesualdo were only just a few years ahead.
Let’s now explain the extraordinary title of the disc. The generously illustrated booklet has, in all, eight illustrations, which explain and enhance Schmelzer’s essay. Two of them are of de Rore. On the one designed by Mielich (c.1550), I quote again “compressed the gaze of Durer’s angel” (in his woodcut Melencholia I )” with the physical features of the dog into a physiognomic portrait of the ‘divine artist’ and his controlled craziness or ‘divine fury’. He continues later that you can see “…..the starved, ascetic face of a skinny dog, the wide veins, red, bloody skin, furrowed brows, and an open gaze of the angel-all are striking features of melancholy”.
I hope that that is clear ! For me, there is much gobbledegook in this and I just wish that the music, and it is very fine music indeed, which is still largely unknown, was allowed to stand on its own.
So let’s briefly do that with a few examples. The programme is divided into three sections. The first, consisting of eight tracks, offers examples from de Rore’s early publications and madrigals by Verdelot and Guillaume Morlaye to demonstrate where de Rore started, as it were. The second part, consisting of three pieces “focuses on the dramaturgical interventions of de Rore in Ferrarese theatre tragedies” and the third with seven madrigals emphasises de Rore’s “mature and dramatic style”. As an example of a text, the following is typical, from Beato mi direi: ‘I would call myself blessed/if your heart was merciful towards me,/such as your words are promising’.
The six singers are joined by instruments, a perfectly acceptable idea, that is a lute doubling guitar and sometimes citerone used as a continuo and there is also a cornett, which adds ‘passagio’ to several of the madrigals. This is not perhaps always a successful idea but it does get some solo work as in an entire verse of Mia benigna fortuna accompanied elegantly by a lute. However in the canonic madrigal Conviench’ovunque there is a balance problem between instrument and voice.
As if de Rore’s word painting isn’t enough the instruments sometimes add further drama and intensity as at the end of Se come il biondo with some wild strumming for the last line “all then, like me, would become insane”.
Although the recording took place in a huge church in Beaufays, it is very closely miked and almost claustrophobic and has only a little atmosphere; you will need to turn down the volume to a much lower level than usual for such intimate music.
Finally the madrigals are offered in the original and are very well translated, we are told the author of the text where known but it’s a pity that we are never told from which book each of madrigals comes. I have quoted Schmelzer’s rather opaque essay – there is also a very interesting one on the citterone by Joël Dugot.
Gary Higginson



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