Notes and Editorial Reviews
First Book of Madrigals
Jürgen Puschbeck, cond; Weimar CCh
RONDEAU 6004 (53:20
Text and Translation)
Needless to say, Heinrich Schütz never published another book of madrigals, but the title of the 1611 Venice publication stands. (In German catalogs it’s simply “Italian Madrigals.”) The set has been available on CD under Dietrich Knothe, Anthony Rooley, and René Jacobs, the last one omitting the final eight-voice madrigal for lack of three extra
singers. Orlando di Lasso Ensemble (22:5) was the first new issue in years, and then Matteo Messori (30:5) included the madrigals in a boxed set. But all those were vocal ensembles, one voice to a part. Only Knothe used a string band as accompaniment (Jacobs and the Lasso Ensemble used continuo). For comparison with this choir of 36 voices, we must go back to one of the earliest complete sets, Jürgen Jürgens on Archiv, not issued on CD as far as I know. In his notes Jürgens only conceded that the question of using a chamber choir or a vocal ensemble is a vexed one, but his chamber choir of uncertain size may be smaller than this choir. Tempo, too, sets Jürgens apart, for he took over 72 minutes (on two LPs) to perform the set (Puschbeck matches the timing of all the vocal ensembles).
So that leaves Rooley’s disc as the ideal single-voice unaccompanied rendition, the standing recommendation all these years. But if you listen to this disc without insisting on the proper way to sing a madrigal but just listening for beautiful music, it soon weaves a spell. The usual excuse for a choral performance of the madrigal literature is to give lots of amateur music-lovers a chance to exercise their vocal chords. These singers are not professionals, to be sure, but they are students from the Hochschule and the Bauhaus University, also in Weimar. That makes their achievement all the more wonderful. The concluding “Vasto mar” for double choir is highly effective. Rooley remains the first choice, but I will not dissuade you from enjoying this glorious choral singing.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
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