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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Mogens PEDERSØN (1585-1623)
Madrigali a cinque voci, Libro primo (1608):
Ecco la primavera
Se nel partir
Morirò, cor mio
T’amo mia vita
O che soave baccio
Son vivo e non son vivo
Care lagrime mie
Se del mio lagrimare
Come esser può
S’io rido et scherzo
Nell’ apparir dell’ amorosa Aurora
Tutti presero all’ hora
Tra queste Verdi fronde
Amor, per tua mercè
Donna. Mentr I’vi miro
Non voglio più sevire
Dimmi, caro ben mio
Io non credea gia mai
Lascia, semplice, Lascia
Madonn’, Amor ed io
Et ella all’hor spiegò

Musica Ficta/Bo Holten
Recorded Torpen Kapel, Humlebæk, November 2001 and February 2002
DACAPO 8.224219 [57.42]



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The Danish Mogens Pedersøn was sent as a youth to study in Venice. A few years later, in 1605, he was back - studying this time with Gabrieli, then a magnet for ambitious young musicians, and staying for four years. Heinrich Schütz was there as well. To complete his education, though maybe not his training, Pederson was then sent to England whose Queen, married to James I, was Anne of Denmark. With a secure European grounding Pedersøn rose steadily through the Court hierarchy to the position of Deputy Master of the Royal Chapel. Doubtless greater things were in store but for his premature death at the age of thirty-eight in 1623. Pedersøn had the good fortune to be active at a propitious time. Under Christian IV, a true Renaissance prince, arts flourished and a kind of transfer system, familiar from contemporary sport, held sway. Star composers were loaned or transferred. Dowland was the most famous of the early visitors from 1598-1606. Schütz, Pedersøn’s old student contemporary in Venice, was the most famous from much later in the King’s reign, by which time Pedersøn was long dead.

Pedersøn is the earliest known example of a Danish composer whose works and biography have survived substantially intact. It’s not unreasonable to see in his work the profound dual influence of his Venetian training and also his exposure to Dowland, both putatively in London and unquestionably at the Royal Court, as defining features. The Italianate antecedents are unavoidable, indeed constant, and so too is the Dowland touch. In a madrigal such as T’amo mia vita the influence of the consort settings in the Englishman’s Second Booke of Songs (1600), published when he was at the Danish Court, seems to me irrefutable. But Pedersøn was an accomplished musician with ambitions of his own. The madrigals recorded here were printed as Libro primo (1608) and were his Op. 1. The second book alas seems never to have followed; if it ever did it’s now lost. The Madrigals are twenty-one in number, Pedersøn proving himself an adept and responsive setter of their crux between self-conscious wit and the melancholy that informs it. The melancholy, so pan-European in its attraction, and so pervasive a conceit, was often used as an expressive tool, a formal and well calibrated pose. Pedersøn plays it for all it’s worth in these settings.

Ecco la primavera has some daring harmonic clashes and in Se nel partir Pedersøn exploits the verbal disparities through the use of yearning and aggressively set stanzas. There are moments in the setting of Son vivo e non son vivo when the female voices sound a little uncomfortable in the highest positions but there is a splendidly conceived descant. How avidly Pedersøn exploits the wide open vowel sounds that the unnamed poet so craftily sprinkles throughout the text. I greatly admired the voices’ seamless layering in the questioning setting of Come esser può with its cadential impulses, its relaxation into a slower, more contemplative section and the exploitation of the emotional/intellectual states the setting so adeptly points. Pedersøn is not above some naturalistic laughter setting. S’io rido et scherzo is a case in point. However it’s the laughter that hides Renaissance tears, adroitly conceived and equally executed by Musica Ficta under Bo Holten. It is very much a matter of taste but I found the tempo extremes of Non voglio più sevire somewhat exaggerated but they catch the floridity and declamatory Lascia, semplice, Lascia with fiery pleasure. He nods towards Monteverdi’s Il primo libro de madrigali, which was published in 1587 more than once in this set but never so explicitly as in Madonn’, Amor ed io. This is a superior setting and, as with the majority here, less than three minutes in length. But there’s breadth here, and delicate refinement to end. Et ella all’hor spiegò shows these facets of his art in the round and is a fine place to end.

The acoustic of the Torpen Kapel, Humlebæk is excellent. Nothing muddies, nothing is too distractingly glacial, and the voices have room to breathe. Holten directs his excellent forces – seven singers – with fluidity and acumen. They seem to relish the wordplay and the drama implicit in these settings as well as the potential for elasticities of textual meaning and musical theatre. The booklet is helpful, full of biographical niceties and this is a most enjoyable disc all round.

Jonathan Woolf



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