Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Battaglie & Lamenti: 17th Century music for battles and lamentation

Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)
Pavan (1621)
Galliard Battaglia (1621)
Claudio MONTEVERDI ((1567-1643)
Lamento d'Arianna: Lasciatemi morire (1608)
Giovanni GABRIELI (ca. 1554-1612)
Canzon III a 6. (1621)
Bastiano CHILESE (fl. 1608)
Canzon in Echo a 8 (1608)
Jacopo PERI (1561-1633)
Lamento di Iole (1628)
Luigi ROSSI (1598-1653)
Fantasia "Les Pleurs d'Orphée2 (1630)
Nicolò FONTEI (ca. 1600-ca. 1647)
Pianto d'Erinna (1639)
Sarabande Italienne, (ca. 1650)
Barbara STROZZI (1619-1664)
Il Lamento "Su'l Rodano severo" (1634)
Andrea FALCONIERO (ca. 1585-1656)
Battaglia de Barabasso yerno de Satanas (1650)

Montserrat Figueras (soprano)
Ton Koopman (clavecin); Rolf Lislevand (théorbe); Robert Clancy (théorbe)
Jordi Savall (basse de viol); Paolo Pandolfo (basse de viol);
Lorenz Duftschmid (violone)
Hespèrion XXI/Jordi Savall
ALIAVOX AV 9815 [76:12]
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Battaglia and lamento are two genres that cover the whole range of musical expression in both the vocal and instrumental music of the 17th century. Battaglia covers the din of battle, soldiers spurred by the rhythm of drums and the sound of trumpets while the lamento covers the personal anguish of individuals or whole nations trapped in a hopeless situation. The origins of the battaglia can be traced to the beginning of the 16th century; the earliest lamenti were composed before the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries. In fact it was in 1528 that Clément Janequin's chanson La guerre that set the model for future musical battaglie. The works in this collection are a fine representative selection of both genres.

I have often praised Jordi Savall's direction of Renaissance and Early Baroque music. His earlier recordings for Alia Vox have been remarkable for their scholarship, lucidity and vitality. This latest album is no exception. The numbers associated with battles are colourful and lively. The programme commences with the Pavan and Galliard Battaglia of Samuel Scheidt. Rather appropriately, the Pavan gives the impression of a mix of lamentation and celebration; there is the formality of strict drumbeats both in a doleful funeral procession mode, and in the urge to battle; and there is music in a more celebratory mood. In fact, one might imagine this music as dance music too, like the material in some parts of the Galliard when war-like bugles are not sounding. (After all, in musical dictionaries, Galliard is defined as a "lively dance from 15th century or earlier in simple triple time"). Additionally, we have the lively and celebratory Canzon's of Giovanni Gabrielli and Bastiano Chilese which must have sounded magnificent in the acoustic possibilities offered by, for instance, St Mark's cathedral, Venice - particularly Chilese's Canzon in Echo with its near and distant canonic echoes adding so much more interest. Guami's Canzon sopra la Battaglia is somewhat relaxed, the fray somewhat gentlemanly and elegant, one imagines. Not so the final number, Andrea Falconiero's energetic Battaglia de Barabasso yerno de Satanas. This is exciting indeed and must have spurred the troops with its biting pizzicatos and thrilling overlapping brass imperatives.

There are two other purely instrumental numbers: Luigi Rossi's beautifully mournful Fantasia "Les Pleurs d'Orphée" and the dainty dance rhythms of the Anonymous Sarabande Italienne.

The most extended numbers in the programme are the laments, sung very expressively and with great passion by Montserrat Figueras (most beautifully accompanied, especially by Ton Koopman). Ms. Figueras's dark-hued and smoky voice is ideal for such material where most of the lines lie in the soprano's lower registers and she loses no opportunity to express the wide range of emotions expressed by her hapless heroines: grief, anger, hurt pride, impatience, spite and yearning. She begins expressing Arianna's (Ariadne) grief at being abandoned on a desert island by Theseus before Bacchus will deliver her, in Claudio Monteverdi's Lamento d'Arianna, the work which really founded the musical genre of the lamento. It is a highly expressive recitative of such emotional intensity that it reduced the audience to tears. Arianna's lament mounts to an almost hysterical frenzy as she invokes all the terrors of the seas, sharks, whales and storms to avenge her before she droops down again in resignation. Jacopo Peri's Lamento di Iole is very much in the same mould, except that this time it is Iole grieving for Hercules abandoning her for the glory of the wars, leaving her to gnash her teeth and agonise imagining her hero disporting in the arms of others. The lament was also used in a more universal capacity to deplore certain political events like the fall of Constantinople, the death of a sovereign, the defeat of a general, or oppression by some foreign power. Unusual in two ways, is Barbara Strozzi's lurid and melodramatic Il Lamento, "Su'l Rodano severo" because, of course, it is written by a woman (in an age when so few women were heard) and secondly its theme is not thwarted romance but political tragedy. The singer mourns the downfall and death of Henri Cinq-Mars, the favourite of King Louis XIII, who was first protected then cast aside by Cardinal de Richelieu.

The packaging and presentation is first class. Another feather in the cap for Jordi Savall and his players.

Ian Lace

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