A Gabrieli: Madrigali e canzoni

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COMPOSERS: A Gabrieli
LABELS: CPO
WORKS: Madrigali e canzoni
PERFORMER: Weser-Renaissance Bremen/Manfred Cordes
CATALOGUE NO: 999 642-2
Histories of the madrigal give only a minor role to the Venetian composer Andrea Gabrieli (d1586). This may be correct in terms of his influence but not in regard to his quality, as this fascinating recording reveals – though the booklet could have been a little more helpful in the precise identification of the pieces. (‘I’vo piangendo’ on track 5, for example, is Gabrieli’s 1587 setting, not his 1562 one, and the ‘Canzona’ on track 4 is actually the 1589 ‘Ricercare’ reproduced in several anthologies of music.)

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The disc opens with a spiritual madrigal, ‘Cantiam di Dio’, which also features on the recent King’s Consort recording The Wedding of Venice to the Sea (Hyperion). The present version is to be preferred, not only for its light and lively declamation of the text, but for its balanced combination of voices and instruments – virtues apparent on other tracks as well. The more theatrical items such as ‘Sento’ (a battle scene) and ‘O Dea’ (an echo dialogue) are performed in a rather flat, matter-of-fact manner, but the ceremonial pieces (such as ‘Hor che nel’ for the visit of the King of France to Venice) make a splendid effect. Similarly, in long complex madrigals such as ‘Tirsi morir volea’ the choir rather loses its way, but the shorter items for solo voice and instruments (‘Mentre la greggia’, ‘Vostro fui’) sparkle like the waters of the Venetian lagoon. Anthony Pryer