Frescobaldi: S’io miro; Se lontana; Ahi, bella si

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COMPOSERS: Frescobaldi
WORKS: S’io miro; Se lontana; Ahi, bella si
PERFORMER: Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
There was a time when Italian madrigals on disc were likely to be by either Monteverdi or Marenzio. Now there are CDs devoted to many of their famous contemporaries (Wert, Gesualdo, Luzzaschi, Pallavicino), and here is yet one more. Frescobaldi is best known as a keyboard composer, but his quicksilver textures and short, nervy phrases adapt rather well in these madrigals to the fortunes of tortured and deserted lovers.


‘Se lontana’ is a little gem, the top voice anxiously leaping into the air to portray a loved one ‘far from me’, and ‘S’io miro’ cleverly contrasts the pain of yearning with the laughter of the ‘beautiful lady’. The performers capture the light and shade of these works nicely, but a slightly shrill soprano and strongly resonant bass occasionally drain the texture of its middle voices. The most compelling works are ‘Ahi, bella si’ and ‘Giunt’è pur’. Here the singers give free rein to localised emotional effects in an attempt to match contemporary descriptions of madrigal performances. There is not the cleanness of tuning and texture that we might expect from an English group, but the atmosphere is probably more authentic. If you ever wondered how a young composer went about impressing his employers of an evening c1600, you can now find out. None of these works has been recorded before. Anthony Pryer