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Orlando Furioso - Madrigals on the poem by Ludovico Ariosto
see end of review for track listing
La Compagnia del Madrigale (Rossana Bertini, Nadia Ragni (soprano), Elena Carzaniga (contralto), Giuseppe Maletto, Raffaele Giordani, Paolo Borgonovo (tenor), Marco Scavazza (baritone), Daniele Carnovitch (bass))/Giuseppe Maletto
rec. 19-23 October 2009, 2 September 2010, Chiesa della B.V. Maria del Monte Carmelo al Colletto, Roletto-Pinerolo, Turin, Italy. DDD
ARCANA A363 [69:49] 

Experience Classicsonline

Orlando furioso is one of the most famous poems in history. It was written by the Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) who began writing it in 1506. In its first form it was published in 1516 in 40 cantos, divided over stanzas of eight lines each. It immediately found response in all echelons of society. Stanzas from the poem were sung by cantastatorie - a kind of wandering minstrels - int the markets of the towns of Central and Northern Italy. It led Ariosto to rework his poems in order to make them even more singable. He also added six cantos; the result was printed in 1532. This edition led to a large number of settings of the various stanzas by Italian and foreign composers. To give some idea of its popularity: this edition found 155 reprints, and was translated into several languages. Giuseppe Maletto mentions that in the decades around the middle of the 16th century about 700 settings were written.
The story takes places in the time of Charlemagne who is involved in a war against the Saracens. Orlando is one of Charlemagne's paladins. He falls in love with the pagan princess Angelica and they get involved in various adventures. When Angelica falls in love with the Saracen knight Medoro Orlando goes mad and travels through Europe destroying everything that is in his way. The poem not only describes the journey of Orlando; Ariosto also saw his poem as a journey. It begins with the expression of his ideal of the unity of poetry and music: "Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing, of courtesies, and many a daring feat". That is also the first piece in the programme, a setting by Hoste da Reggio. It ends with settings by Alessandro Striggio of the two last stanzas in which Ariosto compares the end of his poem with his return home, being greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of illustrious characters.
The programme not only spans the poem from beginning to end, it is also a survey of the various ways in which composers dealt with these texts. Ariosto himself never experienced the popularity of his poem among composers. Only one setting was published in his lifetime: Queste non son più lagrime che fuore by Bartolomeo Tromboncino. It was printed in 1517 in the form of a frottola, and shows little connection between text and music. On this disc it is preceded by settings of the same stanza by Philippe Verdelot and Giaches de Wert. That is particularly illuminating as the differences in regard to the connection between words and music are striking.
There are also differences among the later madrigals. De Wert gives considerable independence to the various voices, for instance in Non tanto il bel palazzo è sì eccellente. This is immediately followed by Era il bel viso, quale esser suole by Cipriano de Rore in which a rather dense polyphony dominates. The settings by Alessandro Striggio contain some drastic effects, for instance the first line of Non rumor di tamburi o suon di trombe: "No roll of drums, no trumpets' peal gave warning of the amorous assault."
The madrigals are not performed in chronological order but follow the progress of Ariosto's poem, beginning with the first and ending with the last stanza. As a result madrigals of different styles and character alternate and this guarantees a maximum of variety. All madrigals are performed with one voice per part, except the very first which is sung by the whole ensemble.
The first time I heard this ensemble was at the 2011 Festival Early Music Utrecht. It was a most rewarding experience as I reported in my review of the festival. The singers are all seasoned performers from the Italian early music scene. They have worked together for many years in later repertoire, in particular from the first half of the 17th century. Fairly recently they decided that it was time to explore the madrigal repertoire of the 16th century. This disc is the first fruit of their musical journey, and it's a bull's-eye. In the madrigals where the various parts get some independence the voices show their individual qualities. But they also blend perfectly, which comes particularly to the fore in the pieces which are dominated by polyphony. The delivery is very good and moments of strong expression are fully explored.
The booklet includes an informative essay about Ariosto and how his poem was received in Italy and elsewhere as well as personal notes by Giuseppe Maletto. I am a little confused about the madrigal in two parts by William Byrd. The booklet gives the Psalmes, Sonets & Songs of 1558 as the source of the first part, but the second should have been published in the collection Musica Transalpina of that same year. It is told that its original was written in English with the title But not soon, from green stock. But I can't find none of these titles in the work-list in New Grove.
The repertoire on this disc is of supreme quality, and so are the performances of La Compagnia del Madrigale. Every reason to label this disc 'recording of the month'.
Johan van Veen

see also reviuew by Gary Higginson

Track listing
Hoste DA REGGIO (c.1520-1569)
Le donne, i cavalier, l'arme, gli amori a 4 [2:11]
Orlandus LASSUS (1532-1594)
Pensier (dicea) che 'l cor m'agghiacci et ardi a 5 [2:37]
William BYRD (1539/40-1623)
La verginella è simile alla rosa - Ma non sì tosto dal materno stelo a 5 [6:18]
Giaches DE WERT (1535-1596)
Vaghi boschetti di soavi allori a 5 [2:23]
Benedetto PALLAVICINO (c.1551-1601)
Tra le purpuree rose e i bianchi gigli a 5 [2:16]
Giaches DE WERT
Non tanto il bel palazzo è si eccellente a 5 [2:34]
Cipriano DE RORE (1515/16-1565)
Era bel viso suo, quale esser suole - E ne la face de' begli occhi accende a 4 [4:46]
Vincenzo RUFFO (1510-1587)
Liete piante, verdi erbe, limpide acque a 5 [3:15]
Giaches DE WERT
Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 5 [4:10]
Philippe VERDELOT (c.1480/85-1530/32?)
Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 6 [4:02]
Bartolomeo TROMBONCINO (c.1470-1535)
Queste non son più lagrime che fuore a 4 [2:16]
Alfonso FERRABOSCO (1543-1588)
Questi ch'indizio fan del mio tormento a 6 [3:30]
Alessandro STRIGGIO (1536/37-1592)
Non rumor di tamburi o suon di trombe a 6 [2:20]
Giovanni Pierluigi DA PALESTRINA (1525-1594)
Se ben non veggon gli occhi ciò che vede a 5 [3:34]
Gli sdegni, le repulse e finalmente a 4 [1:50]
Orlandus LASSUS
Di qua di la va le noiose piume a 5 [2:10]
Deh perché voglio anco di me dolermi? - Dunque fia ver (dicea) che mi convenga a 5 [4:18]
Giaches DE WERT
Chi salirà per me, madonna, in cielo a 4 [2:31]
Andrea GABRIELI (1532/33-1585)
Dunque baciar sì belle e dolce labbia - Se tu m'occidi, è ben ragio che deggi a 3 [3:50]
Perissone CAMBIO (c.1520-1562)
Scarpello si vedrà di piombo o lima a 5 [2:05]
Cipriano DE RORE
Come la notte ogni fiammella è viva a 5 [3:20]
Alessandro STRIGGIO
Or se mi mostra la mia carta il vero - Sento venir per allegrezza un tuono a 6 [3:21]















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