Giovanni VALENTINI (1582/3-1649)
Musiche Concertate 1619
Deh Fuggite gl'Amori [6:59]
E Partito il mio Bene [5:03]
Orsa Bella Crudele [5:14]
Fra Bianchi Giglie [9:48]
Un Di Soletto [5:15]
Augellino, Bel Augellino [4:13]
Caro Vezzo d'Amor [4:54]
Quel Augellin che Canta [4:27]
Ecco Vicine [5:34]
Tocchin le Trombe all'Arma [7:04]
La Capella Ducale
Musica Fiata/Roland Wilson
rec. Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal, 23-25 April 2009. DDD
CPO 777 533-2 [58:38]

CPO have already released several recordings made by Roland Wilson and Musica Fiata, with or without La Capella Ducale. These have featured the works of Johann Schelle (review), Johann Pachelbel (review), Giacomo Carissimi (review), Samuel Scheidt (review), Scheidt again (review), Dieterich Buxtehude (review) and Johann Förtsch (review). Almost all the criticism has been positive, and this latest disc, devoted to Claudio Monteverdi's shamefully neglected contemporary Giovanni Valentini, now joins that lustrous discography.

As the incomplete list above indicates, Musica Fiata and its sister organisation La Capella Ducale, both founded by Roland Wilson, have been performing this kind of repertoire for two or three decades now and can safely be said to live and breathe it. La Capella Ducale's performances here, often requiring considerable virtuosity, are sensitive, communicative and persuasively authentic-sounding, with ensemble singing as harmonious as the soloists are assured. The period instruments, all listed in the booklet (albeit only in Italian), sound splendid, their individual contributions delineated with admirable transparency, steered from within by Wilson also playing the cornettino, which he memorably exchanges in one song for the exotic rossignolo di creta - a water-filled clay pipe.

To judge by the appearance of their names, most of the six members of La Capella Ducale are likely German speakers, but their Italian is very good indeed. In the song texts, 'ghiaccio' is misspelt 'ghiacchio', but pronounced correctly by the singers, whereas 'agghiacciato' is spelt correctly, but mispronounced, as if spelt 'aggiacciato'. Such errors are few and far between, however, and the group's diction is convincing overall.

Giovanni Valentini's place in music history is assured, in that his Second Book of Madrigals of 1616 was the first published collection that added instruments to voices - and not just perfunctorily. The Musiche Concertate, essentially a suite of madrigals of Monteverdian colour, stakes out a cogent case based now on the music itself that should help move him out of Monteverdi's shadow. These are many-sided, expressive, ambitious and aesthetically delectable love songs of considerable originality that deserve to be heard alongside those of Gabrieli and Monteverdi.

The recording is excellent. There are only really two minor complaints for consideration: the relative shortness of the CD - CPO seem congenitally disinclined to go much over the hour - and the translation of notes into English: when will CPO at least have a native proof-reader look over Susan Praeder's renderings to convert them into idiomatic English? "The present recording does its good part", "the composer again draws on this so very unusual item of usage", "the collection does not bear an ordering number" - these are all examples of how not to write English. Unfortunately the song texts are affected in the same way: "Dear loving play, with which my life invites me to love" is Praeder's version of a line which means "fond affectation of love with which the love of my life invites me to love". Much of the translation is fine, it must be said, but these slips are the result of an inadequate knowledge of idioms and detract from the overall quality of the product. The booklet does give Valentini's birth year as 1582, yet most sources, including New Grove, are equivocal, citing 1582 or 1583. Finally, the photo in the booklet of Wilson posing up a tree is an enigma of the highest order.

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Musica Fiata and La Capella Ducale can safely be said to live and breathe this kind of repertoire.