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Early Music

Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger


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Mogens PEDERSON (1585-1623)
Madrigali a cinque voci, Libro primo (1608)

Ecco la Primavera [02:23]
Se nel partir [02:31]
Morirò, cor mio [02:57]
Tíamo mia vita [03:40]
O che soave baccio [02:52]
Son vivo e non son vivo [03:02]
Care lagrime mie [02:39]
Se del mio lagrimare [02:23]
Come esser può [02:41]
Síio rido et scherzo [02:17]
Nellí apparir dellí amorosa Aurora [01:53]
Tutti presero allíhora [02:26]
Tra queste verdi fronde [03:10]
Amor, per tua mercè [02:18]
Donna, mentre iívi miro [02:39]
Non voglio più servire [02:43]
Dimmi, caro ben mio [02:45]
Io non credea già mai [02:55]
Lascia, semplice, lascia [02:44]
Madonní, Amor ed io [02:40]
Et ella allíhor spiegò [03:34]
Musica Ficta: Malene Nordtorp, Elisabeth Holmertz (soprano), Rie Koch (mezzosoprano), Helen Rossil (contralto), Christian Hauskov, John Kjoller (tenor), Hans Henrik Raaholt (bass)
Director: Bo Holten
Recorded in November 2001 and February 2002 in Torpen Kapel, Humlebaek DDD
DACAPO 8.224219 [57:42]

Many countries in Europe experienced a period of political power and economic wealth that created a 'Golden Age', with the arts and sciences flourishing. When England had its 'Elizabethan Era' and Venice was a centre of culture, Denmark had its 'Christian IV period'. Like Elizabeth, Christian IV was a great connoisseur and lover of the arts, and ready to spend enormous sums of money to show his wealth and status to the outside world, in particular other rulers and courts in Europe. Competition was without any doubt an essential element in the demonstration of pomp and splendour. As music at the courts in Europe was highly international, it is no surprise that foreign composers were attracted to compose and perform music at the court in Copenhagen, including such famous composers as John Dowland and Heinrich Schütz.

Some Danish composers also contributed to the flourishing of music. Unfortunately, very few works by Danish composers have survived. Many of the works composed for the Danish court have been fallen victim to fires. From the period before 1800 only a small number of collections by Danish composers are extant. Most of them are Italian madrigals by composers like Borchgrevinck, Brachrogge and Pederson.

Like other composers from all over Europe - Heinrich Schütz, for instance - Mogens Pederson went to Italy to study the newest trends in music. When he was an apprentice in the King's 'cantori', Pederson was sent to Italy in 1599, accompanied by Borchgrevinck, on a one-year study trip. In 1605 he went to Venice again, for a period of four years this time, to study with Giovanni Gabrieli. Usually composers who had spent some time with the great master published a collection of madrigals, showing the results of their studies. Pederson was no different, and published his 'Madrigali a cinque voci, Libro primo' in 1608. It contains 21 madrigals, some in two parts.

Later, Pederson went to England, perhaps to visit Queen Anne, sister of Christian IV, who was married to King James I. In 1618 he was appointed as deputy chapelmaster, a position he held until his death in 1623.

The first collection of madrigals shows that Pederson was a fine composer who knew how to set Italian texts to music. There are several passages with typical Italian 'madrigalisms'. In this collection we find mostly the kind of texts that composers preferred for writing madrigals, usually about (unhappy) love. In particular here, harmony was an important device to illustrate the content of the text. As far as expressiveness is concerned, Pederson is somewhat moderate in comparison with the Italian masters of the madrigal or even Heinrich Schütz.

The amount of expression is difficult to assess, though, on the basis of this recording. "Musica Ficta is a professional vocal ensemble that cultivates virtuoso ensemble singing in all its nuances - not least works from the Golden Age of vocal polyphony, the Renaissance", according to the booklet. It lists seven singers, but doesn't tell whether they all sing all the time.

The main problem of this recording is a general lack of differentiation. Most madrigals are sung 'forte' or 'fortissimo', and the expression of the text is limited. The way of singing here is too straightforward and perhaps more suitable to motets and masses than to madrigals.

The acoustics arenít ideal either. The recording was made in a chapel, whereas for this kind of repertoire one would like a more intimate atmosphere. But in the end more intimacy doesn't help when the singers don't show much sensitivity to the material they are dealing with.

I can recommend this recording only to those who are very curious to know what Pederson's music is like. If you want a recording of madrigals just to enjoy, look elsewhere.

Johan van Veen

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