WORKS: Libro primo de madrigali, 1606
PERFORMER: La Venexiana
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 920908
In 1605, Monteverdi’s dissonant depiction of ‘cruel Amarilli’ was condemned as ‘a deformation of… true harmony’. But his Amarilli was a mere tease compared with D’India’s chromatic shrew, one year later. La Venexiana navigates unerringly through the astonishingly convoluted harmony which opens ‘Cruda Amarilli’, the fourth madrigal of his first published collection. The group is capable of totally focused sound without a flicker of vibrato, setting up a spine-chilling sonority at the very opening of the first madrigal. Elsewhere, each voice in turn becomes ardently animated in expressive individual lines of imitations.
This is music steeped in incestuous courtly manners, with exaggerated expressions of unrequited love and longing for unattainable perfection. Text and music are wholly interdependent. Each madrigal deserves repeated hearing if reading the words is not to distract the ear from listening – much of the poetry would have been familiar to its original audience. D’India’s word-painting is intensely vivid – lingering on ‘grieving’, an excruciating augmented harmony of ‘lament’ (No. 5), notes converging regardless of their mutual dissonance on ‘love’ (No. 8). Outstanding is the last (14th) madrigal: Filli sings ‘I dissolve in tears, I languish and die of love’ at the mere thought of ageing – superbly realised by these finely matched voices. Unreservedly recommended.