Merula

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COMPOSERS: Merula
LABELS: Arion Pierre Verany
WORKS: Madrigals
PERFORMER: Ensemble Suonare e Cantare
CATALOGUE NO: PV 700024
Tarquinio Merula (c1594-1665) divided his career as an organist and composer between his native Cremona and Bergamo. Despite professional difficulties (including indecency with his young pupils at Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo) Merula developed a considerable reputation as one of the most original composers of his age. This release focuses on his importance in the development of the madrigal.

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Ensemble Suonare e Cantare is an eloquent advocate of these pieces, illustrating with subtlety, rhythmic vitality and varied instrumental and vocal colours the intimate marriage of poetry and music characteristic of Merula’s style. Satisfying linear and harmonic transparency in the canzona ‘La Merula’ sets the scene. Meanwhile, agonised dissonances in ‘Filli deh Filli’, lively exuberance in ‘Un bianco animaletto’ and expressive sensuousness in ‘Solca la nave mia’ vividly explore infidelity, unrequited love and jealousy.

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Instrumental items such as the exquisitely decorative ‘La trecha’ for harps and recorders and beautifully long-breathed phrases in ‘La benaglia’ freshen the palate. Listeners can also savour catchy flirtatiousness in ‘Chi prend’amor a gioco’ and an arresting evocation of the ecstasy of physical love in ‘Tempesto di dolcezza’. ‘Mentre in sogno giacea’ comes back down to earth with a revealing portrayal of Love’s cruel and deceptive nature. Nicholas Rast