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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


 

Gerusalemme Liberata
Volume One
ARMIDA
Stafano BERNARDI

Sinfonia Prima a 6 [2.28]
Guilio SANTO PIETRO DE’ NEGRI

L’Armida in stile recitativo [1.54]
Claudio MONTEVERDI

Sinfonia [1.18]
Giaches DE WERT

Vezzosi augelli [2.10]
Sigismondo D’INDIA

Forsennata gridava [2.10]
Giaches DE WERT

Qual musico gentil [2.40]
Claudio MONTEVERDI

Vattene pur, crudel [6.18]
Là tra’l sangue e le morti
Poi ch’ella in sé tornò

Francesco EREDI

L’Armida del Tasso

Rimanti in pace [1.43]
Vattene pur crudel [2.07]
Or che farà [2.10]
Poi ch’ella in sé tornò [2.10]
Che fa più meco il pianto [1.57]
Misera Armida [2.25]
Questa bellezza mia [2.04]
Sigismondo D’INDIA

Là tra ‘l sangue e le morti [2.38]
Domenico MAZZOCCHI

Chiudesti i lumi Armida [1.18]
CLORINDA
Claudio MONTEVERDI

"Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" [20.17]
 
Volume Two
SOFRONIA
Biagio MARINI

Canzon VIII [2.51]
Francesco FIAMENGO

Dialogo di Sofronia e Olindo [11.32]
ERMINIA
Giovanni Battista GRILLO

Sonata Prima a 7 [4.11]
Antonio CIFRA

Era La Notte [4.35]
Claudio MONTEVERDI

Piang’e sospira [3.31]
Sigismondo D’INDIA

Ma che? Squallido e oscuro [1.58]
Biagio MARINI

Le Lagrime d’Erminia [14.29]
Biagio MARINI

La bella Erminia [5.58]
Adriana Fernandez and Marinella Pennicchi – soprano
Alicia Borges – mezzo soprano
Martin Barrera Oro – Countertenor
Giovanni Caccamo and Mario Cecchetti – tenor
Furio Zanasi – baritone
Daniele Carnovich – bass
Ensemble Elyma/Gabriel Garrido
rec 18-23 July 1997, Church of San Martino, Erice, Italy
K617 K617076 [2CDs: 60.37+49.48]
CD available for post-free online mail-order or you may download individual tracks. For some labels you can download the entire CD with a single click and make HUGE savings. The price you see is the price you pay! The full booklet notes are available on-line. Disc 1 Disc 2

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In all the richness of art in renaissance Italy the fluidity of expression from one art form to another was a strong feature. Painters constantly depict angelic musicians, musicians frequently set great poetry, poets waxed lyrical about sculpture. Amongst the literary figures who inspired musicians there were probably none of greater significance than Francesco Petrach and Torquato Tasso. The latter wrote what is almost certainly the greatest epic poem since Classical times in Gerusalemme Liberata and the influence that this work had on musicians of the late renaissance and early baroque is incalculable. This disc utilises this omnipresence to tie together a varied range of works from one of the most fecund periods of Italian music. It was fortuitous that Tasso’s poetry coincided with the period of the highest development of the Italian madrigal and the dramatically exciting possibilities that opened up with the development of the seconda prattica; the setting of words for a single voice accompanied by an harmonic continuo that became the established pattern for the baroque. What this amounted to at the turn of the 16th into the 17th century was a period of both the height of refinement in the old madrigalian forms and of astonishingly fresh new sounds in the modern monodies. Combined with the sheer beauty of Tasso’s epic poetry and the prodigious talent of so many Italians of whom Monteverdi is merely the most well-known, it is no surprise that this short period in one country still stands as one of the absolute pinnacles of western European artistic achievement. For any listener still unfamiliar with the period of the birth of the Italian baroque, this double disc makes an excellent introduction.

This writer has in the past expressed concerns amount the consistency of some of the K617 recordings directed by Gabriel Garrido. There is an undeniable vigour in his programming ideas, but this has not always met with complete success in interpretation and recording. Fortunately there are no such qualms on this set. There is no chorus, which has often been Garrido’s weak link and the eight solo voices are excellent. Marinella Pennicchi has become well-known in continental early music circles since this recording was made in 1997. The baritone Furio Zanasi has just recorded the title role of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Jordi Savall on BBC Opus Arte DVD and the octet on this CD are underpinned by the stupendous bass Daniele Carnovich. This gentleman combines the most startlingly low range with the sort of clarity of vocal production that one expects from a tenor. Undoubtedly one of the best early music basses in the business, and this music suits him so well. [disc 1 track 11 Start 0.00 ] As well as the very fine ensemble of singers there is a group of strings and the usual large continuo line-up, here consisting of two harpsichordists, organ, harp, archlute and a player of theorbo, guitar and lute as necessary. To this is added an early bassoon, as well as the usual ’cello, viol da gamba and violone. The strings blend well and are certainly not without variety of sound – a charge that was often laid at the door of Italian early music groups until recently. The solemnity that is possible with this large group of bass strings and continuo is undeniably impressive. [disc 1 track 1 Start 1.58 ]

The thing that is truly remarkable about the repertoire recorded here is how little of it is at all widely known and yet how consistent is the quality of the music. Apart from Monteverdi, it is possible that de Wert, D’India, Marini may be known names to people already interested in the repertoire. But certainly Bernadi (whose splendid sinfonia (disc 1 track 1 Start 1.58 )opens the disc), Eredi, Fiamengo, Cifra, Grillo and Santo Pietro de Negri are going to be unknown. None of the above even feature in the history books (with the exception of the Grove dictionary of course). And yet the quality of what these apparent nonentities were writing was astounding. Given the quality of the Tasso poetry they were setting they had a head-start, but the understanding of that poetry and the ability to transfer the drama to the musical format is no mean feat at all.

Of course one cannot contemplate Gerusalemme Liberata and music without thinking of the most famous example of a setting from it; "Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda" by Monteverdi. This mini-opera for three singers and some strings, setting verses from canto 52 to canto 68, has become widely recorded but it is interesting to hear it placed in the context of other settings from the same poem by contemporaneous composers. Of course Il Combattimento was massively influential at the time it was written; Monteverdi’s first use of the stile concitato or ‘excited style’ of word declamation and instrumental writing. The moment where Tancredi on his horse breaks from trot into gallop is the famous example [1 track 17 Start 2.54] and Garrido moves his strings on with suitable panache, the jangling lutes underneath sounding like rattling chainmail. The performance is perhaps not as widely varied in colour as, say, that of Musica Antiqua Köln, but at the concitato end of the spectrum both singers and violinists are undeniably impressive.

This is a good double disc, generously filled with music of the most wonderful beauty, most of which will be new to most listeners, but is assuredly worthwhile. The is not as stylish as other K617 productions; the booklet includes full texts, but translations are annoyingly into French only and the booklet notes are rather verbose and heavy going. The written parts are best largely ignored as they do not add anything to, and can easily distract from this wonderful music.

Peter Wells


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