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Giovan Battista LEONETTI (1575-1630)
Madrigali e Messe
CD 1
Il Primo Libro de Madrigali a 5 voci, 1617
Con la biada d'ambrosiail fren di rose [02:29]
Porrate, aure dolenti, i miei sospiri [02:48]
Lagrime, ahi, siete voi d'un falso mare [02:55]
Sonava in ciel la matutina stella [01:49]
Altro da te non chieggio [01:44]
Ohimè, se fusse Eurilla il tuo ben petto [02:11]
Ah, traditor, m'acconi! [01:34]
Languisci Eurilla, o Dio, languisco anch'io [02:24]
Nel giardino d'Amor, nel sen di Clori [02:51]
Non moro e spasmo e morto anco respiro [02:14]
Vivi raggi di sole [01:58]
Cara mia fiamma ardente [01:27]
Volgi e vibra, se sai [02:01]
Le chiome d'or, la fronte [01:19]
Dammi un bacio, mia vita [01:43]
Se al suon de l'aspre mie voci profonde [02:17]
Dolentissima sorte [02:34]
Misero, in abbandono [01:39]
Mio cor, mio ben, mia vita [01:50]
Or sì che 'l vago aprile (balletto pastorale) [03:48]
CD 2
Missa 1. toni [17:04]
Missa il tempo è breve [14:12]
Missa Furtiva e O Pretiosus (motetto per l'elevatione) [22:02]
Nuova Musica di Crema (CD 1), Coro 'C. Monteverdi' di Crema (CD 2)/Bruno Gini
rec. September 1999, Villa Marazzi, Palazzo Pignano (CD 1); October 1999, Abbazia Cisterciense in Abbadia Cerreto, Italy. DDD
TACTUS TC 571290 [43:42 + 53:21]

 


Very little is known about the life of Giovan Battista Leonetti. He was born in Crema and it is likely that he received his musical education from Giovanni Battista Caletti-Bruni. The latter was the father of Francesco Cavalli, who was to become the central figure in music life in Venice after the death of Claudio Monteverdi. The first - and only - book of madrigals by Leonetti is dedicated to Caletti. This collection also contains two pieces by him, one of them the 'balletto pastorale' Or sì che 'l vago aprile. The booklet doesn't indicate which is the other.

Leonetti became an Augustinian monk and was mainly active as an organist. In 1617 he was organist at S. Agostino in Crema. Hardly anything more is known about him, except his small musical output which consists of the two collections of music recorded here as well as three six-part madrigals which appeared in an anthology. I don't understand why these madrigals have been omitted. There is enough space left on the first disc and it would have made this set a complete recording of Leonetti's oeuvre.

The remarkable thing about his works is that he frequently quotes compositions by some of the most famous names (Palestrina, Gesualdo and Monteverdi) in Italian music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. In his madrigals, published as 'Il Primo Libro de' Madrigali a Cinque voci' in 1617, he borrows passages from Monteverdi's first five books of madrigals. These include 'Se pur non mi consenti' (book 1) and 'Era l'anima mia' (book 5). Gesualdo's madrigal 'Io tacerò' (book 4) is also quoted. This has nothing to do with plagiarism; many composers of the pre-romantic era used material from other composers' works in their own compositions. The quotations should rather be considered as tributes to the composers whose works were quoted. According to Flavio Arpini in the programme notes, "an educated seventeenth-century listener able to grasp and recognize the various compositional planes present, would be comforted by a sense of renewed continuity and admire the creative abilities of the author to liberate the emulative tiles from a mosaic of mere citation and create a new interpretative vision."

In his only other collection, which contains three masses and an elevation motet, Palestrina and Monteverdi are quoted. These works are set for eight voices in two choirs, following the Venetian 'cori spezzati' practice. Although these pieces are provided with a 'basso seguente' only, in the performance on this disc the voices are supported by strings (violin, viola da brazzo, viola da gamba and violone) in the first choir and by winds (cornett and three sackbuts) in the second. This was common practice at the time.

The ensembles which have recorded these works were unknown quantities to me, but I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of their interpretations. Some madrigals contain strong dissonances which are brought out well, thanks to the clarity of the voices and the lack of vibrato. Much attention has been given to the expression of the words. I would have liked more dynamic differentiation, though, in order to emphasize some elements in the text. And I am not sure whether the harpsichord should be supported by a violone in the basso continuo.

The masses are completely different works, in which there is not that much connection between text and music. They stand out by very vivid rhythms, which have been realised quite brilliantly here, partly because of the pretty fast tempi. Sometimes these tempi cause slight problems as the choir is a little too large: 33 voices divided over two choirs. The instrumentalists do a very fine job here: they do not merely play 'colla parte' with the voices, they also add ornamentation to the vocal parts.

I have really enjoyed this recording, not only because of the performances, but also because of the music. I didn't recognize most of the quotations from Palestrina or Monteverdi. Perhaps that is easier for those who know the sources better. I have listened to them as they present themselves, and I liked them. These madrigals and masses are certainly worth performing and listening to. And as the performances do these compositions full justice, I would like to recommend this set in particular to those who have a specific interest in early 17th-century Italian music.

Johan van Veen

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