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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger

Il Pastor Fido
Madrigals after texts by G. Battista Guarini (1538 - 1612)
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585 - 1672) - O primavera, gioventu de l'anno
Marco da GALIANO (1582 - 1643) - Cingetemi d'intorno
Sigismondo D'INDIA (1582 - 1629) - Se tu, Silvio crudel
Giaches de WERT (1535 - 1596) - Udite, lagrimosi spirti d'Averno
Ruggiero GIOVANELLI (1560 - 1625) - Ah dolente partita
Luca MARENZIO (1553 - 1599) - Quell'augelin che canta
Domenico Maria MALLI (c. 1602) - Io moro e consolato
Benedetto PLLAVICINO (1551 - 1601) - Cruda Amarilli
Giovanni G. GASTOLDI (1550 - 1622) - Cieco Amor non ti cred'io
Stefano BERNADI (1585 - 1636) - A dolente partita
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567 - 1643) - O Mirtillo, Mirtillo anima mia
Marsilio CASENTINI (1576 - 1651) - Partiti e ti consola
Claudio SARACINI (1586 - 1649) - Udite, lagrimosi spiriti d'Averno
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585 - 1672) - Selve beate
Giaches de WERT (1535 - 1596) -O primavera, gioventu de l'anno
Alessandro GRANDI (c.1575 - 1630) - Udite, lagrimosi spirti d'Averno
Sigismondo D'INDIA (1582 - 1629) -Quell'augellin che canta
Luca MARENZIO (1553 - 1599) - Come'e dolce il gioire o vago Tirsi

Cantus Cölln
Johanna Koslowsky (Soprano)
David Cordier (Countertenor)
Gerd Türk (Tenor)
Wilfried Jochens (Tenor)
Stephan Schreckenberger (Bass)
Harald Hoeren (Harpsichord)
Konrad Junghänel (Artistic Director and Lute)
Recorded 6th - 9th May 1991, Sendesaal des Deutschlandfunk, Köln


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G. Battista Guarini was a late 16th century poet who entered the services of the d'Este Dukes of Ferrara in 1567. In 1579 he replaced Tasso as court poet on Tasso's loss of sanity and subsequent incarceration. Guarini composed the majority of his verses in the 8 years following this appointment. His fame as a poet rests mainly on his poetic drama 'Il Pastor Fido', the prototype of the classical pastoral tragi-comedy. It was published in 1590 and received its first performances in 1596. The plot is set in Arcadia and involves the trials and tribulations of two pairs of lovers and two villains.

The drama served as a major source of madrigal and monody texts for composers writing between 1591 and 1626. The last known setting of Guarini's work seems to be from 1678. In total over 125 composers wrote around 550 madrigals based on Guarini's work. The extant printed madrigals and monodies use over one-fifth of the entire text of 'Il Pastor Fido'.

Faced with such a bewildering number of madrigals to choose from, Konrad Junghänel and Cantus Cölln have assembled this attractive programme of 18 madrigals from 14 different composers. One area not covered in the booklet, is whether the composers represented on this disc could be said to share some quality as a result of their choosing to set Guarini's texts. The concept behind the CD rather invites this sort of speculation, but realistically this is something for an academic thesis. Our main concern lies with the performances of the music.

Cantus Cölln were formed in 1987 by the lutenist Konrad Junghänel and has subsequently developed into one of the most exciting groups on the early music scene. This recording comes from quite early on in their recording career. All the singers are fine soloists in their own right and the group specialises in a sound in which the different performers retain their identity rather than producing a homogenised sound.

The disc contains a variety of types of madrigal; monody, homophonic madrigals and more complex polyphonic ones. I found the madrigals that worked the best were the homophonic ones. In the more complex items there are too many little moments where individual lines are smudged, slight problems with tuning and a general lack of cohesion between the individuals. Notwithstanding their reputation, this disc feels like an early experiment which has not yet succeeded, more of a work in progress. The five singers do not always coalesce and sometimes sound like five disparate individuals. The attention to detail is also lacking when it comes to the words. Diction can be poor, which is a shame on a disc devoted to texts by a single poet. And more problematically, the emotions can sound a little generalised rather than springing directly out of the text and the music. Since this recording was made, styles of performance of this music have developed and we have become more accustomed to a passionate delivery of this style of music. The recorded balance is fine for the singers, but I found that the lute was generally a little too quiet. At times it was just a faint plucking in the background rather than the support for that singers. But the singers have been recorded very closely so that the music seems to lack any space to breathe. This music would have been sung in chambers rather than in churches, so a generously resonant acoustic is not necessarily suitable. But I feel the current recording errs to far on the side of dryness.

But these are details, this is still an attractive programme, in the main stylishly sung. The majority of items involve most of the members of the group, though David Cordier (countertenor) and Gerd Türk contribute attractive solo items (Domenico Maria Melli's 'Io moro e consolato' and Claudio Saracini's 'Udite lagrimosi spirti d'Averno). Cordier and Johanna Koslowsky (Soprano) charm in their duet, 'Ah dolente partita' by Stefano Barnardi and Gerd Türk and Wilfried Jochens (Tenors) sing Alessandro Grandi's lovely 'Udite labrimosi spirti d'Averno'. This is one of the 3 items which duplicate texts. It makes a fascinating exercise seeing how the different composers tackle the same or similar texts. I could have wished for more of this. though I would have liked to have seen the printed texts. The booklet usefully relates the individual items to the original drama, but there are no printed texts, which is a great loss.

This is an attractive programme, full of items which are insufficiently recorded, I only wish I could be more enthusiastic. Of course, not everyone will agree with my comments on the performance and its style, but at such a reasonable price I urge you to try it and see for your self.

Robert Hugill



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