Notes and Editorial Reviews
Madrigals, Book 6. 12 Madrigals.
Marco Longhini, dir; Delitiae Musicae
NAXOS 8.555312 (2 CDs: 145:20
Text and Translation)
The odd thing about the latest installment of Longhini’s traversal of the published books of madrigals is the length of Book 6, too long to fit on a single CD as the five previous complete recordings of these works have managed to do. He simply lengthens the
performance of each madrigal by as much as 40 percent, that being the increased timing of the opening five-voice
over Consort of Musicke’s version. But this is a calculated decision to reject speed and agility in favor of expression, allowing the harmonic subtleties to unfold. Longhini makes up for it by filling the second disc with all the miscellaneous madrigals published in collections of various composers, along with the solo lament for comparison with the madrigal arrangement.
Longhini’s previous discs have been unique not only for the all-male ensemble but for allotting instrumental accompaniment to half of the pieces in each book, thus providing contrasting performance practice for works that are usually (though not of necessity) performed only vocally. Book 6 is a different case. Monteverdi designated six of the pieces (as he did for the last six pieces of Book 5) as concertato settings, and these are invariably performed with instruments, though no more than one or two in some versions. The Consort of Musicke departed from their usual unaccompanied interpretations to use a lavish array of as many as 11 instruments, employing them in all but the Sestina and the piece that immediately follows it. Longhini has a different group of 10 instruments (more bowed strings) and he uses them throughout the book. Even so, the Sestina is limited to harp and organ, and the piece that follows it uses only a lute. But even at most, only in a couple of pieces does Longhini use more than four instruments. Hence, in this respect at least, these two sets are more alike than their competitors (I have not heard Raffaello Monterosso on Capriole).
Listening to the lament in these two versions, it is astonishing to hear how well the piece works at either tempo. Hearing Longhini first, there was no sense of dragging out the tempo, nor did the Consort of Musicke seem to be rushing things as its performance unfolded afterwards. Longhini’s tempo gave me more time to savor the aching tragedy, and I would not begrudge the extra time taken to hear it. Turning to the Sestina, the first work ever recorded (in 1928), it also sounds right either way, though Longhini is only 30 percent slower in this case. The two cycles fall at the beginning of the two halves of the book, each followed by a sonnet of Petrarch. The rest of each half consists of the concertato madrigals. The variety thus wrapped up into one book places it in the time after the composer’s large
works, distinguishing the works from the first five books of madrigals that were published before
The 12 madrigals published in collections between 1593 and 1634 are a mixed lot. Longhini says that the 1593 group of five pieces has never been recorded, but he overlooked
Io ardo sì
on an obscure Guilde Internationale du Disque LP. Most of the other seven have appeared several times recently (28:4, 29:3, 30:5, 30:6). The comparative rarities are
O come vaghi
, recorded by Alan Curtis (22:6),
, not recorded since Concerto Vocale (9:6; now as HMA 1901084), and even
La mia Turca
, which is included in only two of the four discs just cited. Still, we can be grateful for four first recordings, just about the last entry in the Monteverdi discography (an assertion I’ve made before while overlooking all the odds and ends). Countertenor Paolo Costa takes the solo lament very effectively, though the piece would seem to belong to a woman. Yet the first recording ever was made by Louis Graveure, and, as unlikely as it sounds, even Ezio Pinza tried it.
Longhini’s project has grown on me as its logic became clear and the excellence of execution continued to impress. If you didn’t cave in for the splendid Book 5, this set should leave no doubt. Hear both, and you will probably go back for the first four discs as well.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Madrigals, Book 6 by Claudio Monteverdi
Written: by 1614; Italy
Venue: St. Peter's Church, Vincoli, Azzago, Ver
Length: 87 Minutes 52 Secs.
Notes: St. Peter's Church, Vincoli, Azzago, Verona, Italy (07/21/2003 - 07/25/2003)
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