La Pellegrina: Intermedii, 1589
Dorothée Leclair, Monika Mauch (sopranos)
Pascal Bertin (alto)
Stephan van Dyck, Jean-François Novelli (tenors)
Antoni Fajardo (bass)
Capriccio Stravagante Renaissance Orchestra, Collegium Vocale Gent/Skip
rec. live, May 2007, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. DDD
Reviewed as stream from Qobuz
(No booklet with streamed or download version) PARADIZO PA0004 [68:54]
The lavish Intermedii performed at a Medici marriage in 1589
are often seen as the immediate fore-runners of opera. They are also
the apogee of a tradition which had been developing during the sixteenth
century, of dramatic madrigals performed as interludes at Medici ceremonies.
Thus the 1589 collection, performed in the interludes of the play La
Pellegrina, stands right at the intersection of renaissance and
baroque. It’s no coincidence that art historians also date the baroque
style from this same period.
The main composers were Luca Marenzio and Cristofano Malvezzi but Jacopo
Peri, credited with the first opera, Dafne, now lost, was also
involved. So, too, was Giulio Caccini, whose Euridice of 1600
can claim joint honours with Peri’s opera of the same name as the first
extant example of the species. Emilio de’Cavalieri, whose Rappresentatione
di Anima e di Corpo, also of 1600, is the first sacred opera or
dramatic oratorio and who claimed to have beaten Peri and Caccini as
the first opera composer, was also involved in some of the intermedii.
Look out for my review of Cavalieri’s Rappresentatione, as performed
by Concerto Vocale and Akademie für alte Musik directed by René Jacobs
(Harmonia Mundi HMC902200/01).
Forget about the musicological significance of these pieces and sit
back to enjoy the music as you might enjoy a set of renaissance madrigals.
There’s no great dramatic import here, or in any musical drama before
Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (1607), but that’s not a serious problem.
In the original production the drama was all in the action. The subtitle
of the Andrew Parrott recording (below) is Una Stravaganza dei Medici;
the whole affair surely was extravagant, taking months to prepare, and
it would be beyond the scope of any modern production to reproduce sea
fights, slaying of the python and so on unless it were to be done on
film with CGI – there’s a thought.
We already had two recordings of these works, one good, from the Linde
Consort, the other superb, with Emma Kirkby, Tessa Bonner, Emila van
Evera, Nigel Rogers, The Taverner Consort, Choir and Players directed
by Andrew Parrott. Originally released on EMI Reflexe in 1988 in de
luxe format, it was long absent from the catalogue but has recently
returned in a simpler format on Virgin/Erato Rediscoveries 6026842.
I never expected to hear anything to match that Parrott recording but
the Paradizo comes very close indeed. Singing, direction and recording
are all delightful and the fact that it was recorded live adds something
extra. I played the Parrott recording immediately afterwards – not
always a wise thing to do because it exaggerates differences – and,
though none of the singing on the Sempé version quite matches the ethereal
qualities of Parrott’s three sopranos, the newer recording is slightly
fuller and the overall impression even more of a celebratory occasion,
slightly outdoing even Parrott in the quality that makes his recording
preferable to Linde’s. Try the final track on both recordings, however,
and there’s very little in it.
I understand that the Paradizo booklet is very fine, too, but I had
no access to that, alas, as neither the streamed version from Qobuz
nor the download comes with the booklet. That’s no great matter if,
like me, you already have the texts with the EMI booklet. You also
miss out on the second CD on which Skip Sempé explains and analyses
the music, perhaps less of a problem, but I must harp on yet again about
the problem caused when downloads come without the booklet. It does
need to be dealt with. If your Italian is up to it, the original texts
The Parrott recording is available for streaming or download from Qobuz
with booklet – texts and notes – but here comes another grumble, this
time about the unfathomable economics of the music business: it costs
rather more to download than the typical selling price of the CD, around
Ł7.60 or $12.99.
Now I shall have to think about which version I choose to play in future
– Parrott or Sempé: both will do very well.
Primo Intermedio: The Harmony of the Spheres Cristofano MALVEZZI (1547-1599) Sinfonia, a 6 Antonio ARCHILEI (1550-1612) or Emilio de’CAVALIERI (c.1550-1602)Dalle piů alte sfere Cristofano MALVEZZI Noi, che cantando, a 8; Sinfonia,
a 6; Dolcissime Sirene, a 6; A voi reali amanti, a 15;
Coppia gentil, a 6
Secondo Intermedio: The Muses defeat the Pierides
in a singing contest Luca MARENZIO (1553/4-1599) Sinfonia, a 5; Belle ne fe’ natura,
a 3; Chi dal delfino, a 6; Se nelle voci nostre, a 12;
O figlie di Piero, a 18
Terzo Intermedio: Apollo slays the Python at Delphi Luca MARENZIOQui di carne si sfama, a 12; O valoroso
Dio, a 4; O mille volte, a 8
Quarto Intermedio: The Golden Age is foretold Giulio CACCINI (c.1545-1618) Io che dal ciel cader Cristofano MALVEZZI Or che le due grand’alme,
a 6 Giovanni de’BARDI (1534-1612)Miseri habitator, a 5
Quinto Intermedio: Arion and the Dolphin Luca MARENZIO Io che l’onde raffreno, a 5 Cristofano MALVEZZIE noi con questa bella
diva, a 5; Sinfonia, a 6 Jacopo PERI (1561-1633) Dunque fra torbid’onde Cristofano MALVEZZILieti solcando il mare, a 7
Sesto Intermedio: The Gift of Harmony and Rhythm to
Mankind Cristofano MALVEZZIDal vago e bel sereno, a 6; O qual
risplende nube, a 6 Emilio de’CAVALIERIGodi turba mortal Cristofano MALVEZZIO fortunato giorno, a 30 Emilio de’CAVALIERI O che nuovo miracolo, a 5/a