WORKS: La Gerusalemme liberata; Il pastor fido
PERFORMER: La Venexiana/Claudio Cavina
CATALOGUE NO: GCD 920911
Giaches de Wert (d1596) was one of the last Netherlands composers to go to Italy before native Italian composers fully took over their own musical culture. He worked in Mantua, where he directly influenced the young Monteverdi – particularly through the very works presented here, which are settings of poems by Tasso and Guarini.
La Venexiana manages most of this very well: the sound is clear, if a little dry; the ensemble good, if sometimes a little out of tune; and the whole thing is very attractively packaged. Just occasionally there is a really stupendous performance, as in the dramatic presentation of Wert’s amazing version of ‘Cruda Amarilli’, which is enough to show that Monteverdi was by no means as automatically pre-eminent as we might now imagine. The singers do, though, have a slightly odd view of the relationship between the notation and performance speed, and theirs is probably the slowest version of ‘Giunto alla tomba’ you are likely to hear. Even so, these readings are an improvement on the rather limp versions by Musica Secreta (Linn, reviewed October 2002); but the best recordings of these pieces by far remain those by Cantus Cölln, issued on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi in 1992 and 1996. Anthony Pryer