The composers whose
works are performed on this disc are
mainly known for their madrigals. But
that wasn't necessarily the case in
their own time. It very seldom happened
that a composer of vocal works exclusively
composed sacred or secular music. Even
the composer who is generally considered
the most prominent representative of
sacred music of the late renaissance
in Italy, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina,
did write a number of madrigals. And
De Wert's motets were the only part
of his musical output which was printed
in quantity during his lifetime.
Most composers of vocal
music were also or even in the first
place 'maestro di cappella' at a church
or court chapel. Apart from that they
were often connected to some prince
or aristocrat who invited them to compose
madrigals to be performed at their court.
From that viewpoint it is perhaps not
surprising that madrigals were not always
widely printed. Some were composed for
a specific court and not meant to be
performed everywhere. After all, there
was a stiff competition among the aristocracy
and others who had a court of their
own: the musicians they were able to
attract, and the composers who composed
for them all contributed to their prestige.
It certainly makes
sense to look for a link between the
sacred music of the above-mentioned
composers and their madrigal-writing.
Very often their motets are characterised
by the close connection between text
and music in a way comparable to what
they did in their madrigals. Hence the
use of the term 'madrigalism' to describe
the way text and music were linked together.
For example, De Wert's
madrigals are marked by frequent chromaticism.
It doesn't come as a surprise, then,
that he uses the same technique in his
motet 'Adesto dolore meo' with its mourning
character. Madrigalisms also characterise
one of his most famous works, the motet
'Vox in Rama'.
Cipriano de Rore, one
of the last representatives of the 'Franco-Flemish'
school active in Italy, is another composer
who is nowadays mainly known for his
madrigals, but who was at the service
of Duke Ercole II d'Este in Ferrara
as 'maestro di cappella'. In his motets
he showed a strong preference for dramatic
texts. It is a little strange that he
is represented here with just one piece,
and a motet whose authenticity is very
doubtful at that.
Marenzio on the one
hand used madrigalisms in his motets
and was strongly attracted to religious
symbolism, but on the other hand he
made use of the polychoral technique
developed in Venice. The disc opens
and closes with a motet for double choir,
both on texts from the Book of Psalms.
This is a recording
of a live performance given by the Rutgers
Collegium Musicum, which is an ensemble
for early music of the Mason Gross School
of the Arts, Rutgers University, and
includes students, alumni and faculty
members as well as members of the local
community. Taking this into account
one has to admire the level of the performances
given here. Sometimes there are slight
problems with intonation, but otherwise
this is a technically admirable production.
Having said that I have to point out
that the interpretations are not always
satisfying. The pronunciation of Latin
has a slight English accent. More serious
is that the lyrics are difficult to
understand, which is particularly problematic
since they are nor printed in the booklet.
The liner notes refer to the madrigalisms
in the motets, but it would have been
nice if the listener had been allowed
to discover them himself, either by
listening or by reading the texts, or
by both. The ensemble is also a little
top-heavy: the sound of the ensemble
is too much dominated by the sopranos.
Sometimes I would have
liked a little more declamation, as
in De Wert's 'Transeunte Domino'. Considering
this is the telling of a story - the
healing of the blind man in Luke 18
- there is too little differentiation
in tempo, and a general lack of passion.
And in the last item on the disc the
tempo again is too slow in a piece with
such a text.
It is a pity that the
tendency to blandness undermines a little
the commendable attempt to show the
'other side' of some composers who are
nowadays mainly known for their secular
music, and how closely the sacred and
the secular were connected in those
Johan van Veen
A sympathetic and commendable attempt
to show the 'sacred side' of composers
mainly known for their secular music
... see Full Review