De Wert

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: De Wert
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
WORKS: Madrigals in Five Parts
PERFORMER: Cantus Cölln/Konrad Junghänel
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901621
These three discs offer insights into the contributions of a trio of varied composers to the Italian madrigal form which flourished and evolved in the century from 1520 or so. The first, sung by Cantus Cölln, is devoted to Giaches de Wert. The pieces range from the villanella-like ‘Voi ch’ascoltate’ of 1561 to impressively expressive examples from 1581 and 1588, though as ‘Dolci spoglie’ (otherwise known as Dido’s Lament) shows, an early publishing date does not always mean a less than distinguished piece. The performances – by five unaccompanied voices throughout – are slightly buttoned up, but acceptable.

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The first instalment of Concerto Italiano’s recording of Monteverdi’s Eighth Book under Rinaldo Alessandrini’s direction is a sublime example of the madrigalian art. From the sinfonia that prefaces the first work, ‘Altri canti d’amore’, and the gentle opening solo tenor accompanied by lute continuo, the disc oozes a sense of intelligent poetic response. Clearly the Italian performers are at ease with the language, allowing the poetries of both music and text to complement each other in moments subtle and impassioned.

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Hitherto Michelangeli Rossi’s madrigals, probably written in the 1620s, have been shrouded in near-obscurity, surviving in a few undated manuscripts. This recording by another Italian group, Il Complesso Barocco, of Book I (of two) looks set to change that. Rossi’s language is vividly expressive, with something of Gesualdo’s harmonic boldness without his wilful eccentricity. Some madrigals are given with instrumental doublings; others are performed unaccompanied; still others are played by string ensemble alone, though all texts are printed. Again, fine readings, although the director Alan Curtis’s approach seems marginally less intimate than Alessandrini’s. The disc also includes Rossi’s only two pieces for solo voice and continuo, as well as works from the 1657 keyboard collection Toccate e correnti, eloquently played by Curtis himself.