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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

I Fiamminghi In Italia - Italian madrigals by Flemish composers
Orlando di LASSUS (1532-1594) Chi chilichi (two versions); Come la cera al foco; Di pensier in pensier; S’io esca vivo; Hor vi riconfortate; Madonna mia pieta (intab for lute for Adriaenssen); Hai, Lucia bona cosa; Catalina apra finestra.
Cipriano de RORE (1515-1565) Lieta vivo e contente; Ancor che col partire (intab for lute by Paldino) Vieni dolce Himineo.
Giaces de WERT (1535-1596) M’ha punt’amor; Donna, tu sei si bella; Se lestelle cascassero; Non mi conosci tu; Guinto alla tomba; vezzosi augelli; Forsonnata gridava; usciva omai dal molle e fresco grembo; Sovente all’or; Misera, non credea ch’a; Qual musico gentil; Grazie ch’a pochi; Sorgi e rischiara
The Song Company/Roland Peelman
Tommie Andersson, lute
Recorded May, June, October 1996, Chapel of St.Scholastica Convent, Glebe, Sydney
ABC CLASSICS 454 518-2 [78.42]



Recordings of madrigals by 16th century Italians are not particularly uncommon. The same can be said of madrigal anthologies by Flemish composers who for some part of their careers worked in Italy. Not only that but there are plenty of discs devoted to and therefore more focused on the composers represented here. Cipriano de Rore was recorded superbly by Anthony Rooley on his now defunct label Musica Oscura (5th book of madrigals on 070991). Lassus has been recorded often but especially look out for the Hilliard ensemble on Virgin Veritas (7242 5 611662.7) and Gaiches de Wert is superbly represented also by The Consort of Musick on a Virgin Veritas disc (7th book of madrigals, Virgin 7243 5 611772.3). If you prefer a general CD of the repertoire then you could try the slightly po-faced Amaryllis Consort on IMP (PCD 822). These happen to be my favourites but there is much to choose from.

So, the point is: why buy this disc? Well first it gives the listener a general view of some of the finest examples of the genre. Secondly it is wonderfully and colourfully sung so that at no point does ones interest flag throughout this generously long recital.

The Song Company is an Australian group; their biography is given in the booklet notes which accompany a very useful essay on the composers and music by Roland Peelman, the group’s artistic director. The singers are young and fresh and give me the impression of completely loving this music and of looking for new ways of presenting it - not by gimmicks but by musicality. Let me explain further by taking track 3, Wert’s ‘M’ha punt’Amor’ ‘Cupid has hit me with his mischievous bow’. Here, with lute accompaniment, the voices enter quietly and sensitively. The volume gradually increases with the counterpoint towards the final “To arms, War” or in Italian the more aggressive ‘Guerra’. Following Wert’s mood the singers throw off the gentle madrigalian voices and gradually put on a front-of-the-mouth-attacking diction; this all in the space of one minute and twenty seconds. The madrigal has been clearly characterized and the best has been brought out of it.

This CD offers madrigals of the serious kind and pieces of what one might call rustic humour. In fact I’m quite surprised that Lassus’s ‘Chi chillichi’ made it past the censor, with its references to several private parts! Lassus is represented by four of these comic works but also by the seamlessly interweaving counterpoint of ‘Madonna mia pieta’, here transferred to the cool sounds of the lute and the three settings of texts by Petrarch who, although he lived 200 years earlier, still exerted in his love lyrics a terrific influence on the culture of the renaissance. The ‘Company of Singers’ are great fun in these lighter pieces but carry off the serious-minded Wert’s polyphony equally splendidly, especially his six sections from Torquato Tasso’s much longer poem ‘ Gerusalemme liberata’. This recounts the last thirty days of the crusading army’s battle leading to the fall of Jerusalem. These pieces represent the peak of Italian madrigal writing, and these performances will not disappoint although I would have appreciated a little more bass in the overall balance.

Cipriano de Rore is, as it were, the class act of the period, a composer’s composer. He is never overly passionate yet expresses the poem delicately, subtly and with a real sensitivity to the text. Everything is nevertheless held in classical poise not dissimilar to the paintings of Raphael. My one criticism of this CD is that another Rore madrigal instead of a Lassus would have balanced the disc slightly better. The famous ‘Ancor che col partire’ on which so many composers based instrumental variations and others based masses is a fine example of his arms-length beauty and perfect balance. It is modern in that it has a greater emphasis on the melody (and with affecting major key harmony) than on flowing polyphony; this gives it a gentle simplicity.

So to sum up: this is a highly recommendable disc by a young and very promising group singing standard Italian madrigal repertoire in a lively, colourful but entirely appropriate manner. All texts are given in Italian and with good English translations. The recording is close but with a good sense of the chapel space around the voices.

Gary Higginson



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