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Madrigali - Fire And Roses / Mealor, Con Anima Chamber Choir

Release Date: 05/08/2012 
Label:  Divine Art   Catalog #: 25094  
Composer:  Morten LauridsenPaul MealorCarlo GesualdoGirolamo Scotto,   ... 
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Singing that is always perfectly tuned and beautifully recorded.


MADRIGALI: Fire and Roses Paul Mealor, cond; Con Anima CCh DIVINE ART DDA 25094 (65:24)

LAURIDSEN Madrigali: 6 Fire Songs. Chanson Eloignée. MONTEVERDI Se per havervi. Read more class="COMPOSER12">GESUALDO Luci serene e chiare. RUFFO Io piango. SCOTTO Amor, io sento l’alma. BARRY Quando son più lontan. SCHAFFEN O’ve lass’, il bel iso. MEALOR Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. ANON There Is No Rose. WARD Upon a Bank with Roses Set About. WILBYE Lady, When I Behold the Roses. HOLST Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal. MACMILLAN So Deep

This is a fascinating collection of madrigals from various eras, composed to poems written as early as the 15th century. All pertain either to love or roses. Twentieth-and 21st-century compositions by Paul Mealor, Gustav Holst, James MacMillan, and Morten Lauridson are combined with madrigals from the 15th through 17th centuries.

The Con Anima Chamber Choir was founded in 2001 in Aberdeen, Scotland. On this disc, the sopranos are wonderful but there is a lack of robust alto and tenor sound. However, Con Anima’s careful execution of each piece seems to add character. The group’s music director is Welsh composer and conductor Paul Mealor, who teaches composition at the University of Aberdeen. Since some of his music, which was played at the 2011 Westminster Abbey wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, was seen on worldwide television, his star has risen.

The early composers are a motley bunch. Vincenzo Ruffo was a priest who was influential in the reform of church music. Claudio Monteverdi was a full-time musician who became a priest in his old age. Girolamo Scotto was a wealthy publisher, John Ward was a lawyer, and John Wilbye the most famous English madrigalist. Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, murdered his wife and her lover quite openly because, as a member of the nobility, he was beyond the reach of the law. It only proves that you cannot tell much about the composer’s personality from his music. Gesualdo had a wonderful talent, but you would not want to meet him in a dark alley. Scotto was a fine publisher who did a great deal for music by distributing it. His compositions are of considerably less import.

Gustav Holst is more commonly remembered for orchestral compositions, but he wrote quite a few beautiful songs. Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal, with a text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson is only one among many. Mealor has a different setting of the same exquisite poem, and the two make an interesting combination.

Comparative recordings can only be found a piece or group at a time. Morten Lauridsen’s Fire Songs are sung with clear but rather colorless tone on a Hyperion disc called Lux Aeterna. The Aberdeen group has a wider range of color. There is another fine recording of Wilbye’s Lady, When I Behold the Roses that features Pro Cantione Antiqua on two Warner compact discs. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants also give a fine performance of Luci serene e chiare (Eyes, Serene and Clear) on a Harmonia Mundi recording. Mealor’s madrigals are also to be heard on A Tender Light, a Decca recording featuring Tenebrae directed by Nigel Short.

The engineers at Divine Art have done well in making you feel as though you are in a small hall listening to this wonderful choir.

FANFARE: Maria Nockin


Recordings by choirs of mixed choral works by mixed composers can be something of a very mixed bag, the various styles and moods jostling each other without any sense of purpose and sometimes without any sense of propriety either. This disc presents a very imaginative approach to the problem. It centres around two substantial modern works by Morten Lauridsen and Paul Mealor (who also conducts the disc) which employ texts from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. These are then contrasted with settings of the same texts by composers who were working at the same time as the poets themselves. So for example we get to compare Mealor’s setting of Now sleeps the crimson petal with that by Holst, and Lauridsen’s setting of Se per havervi, ohimè with that by Monteverdi.
Lauridsen comes extremely well out of this competitive sort of environment. He takes the basic madrigal style and enhances it with a halo of choral sound which cluster around and reflect the melodic lines in an admirably close study of the madrigal texts themselves and their meanings. The translations in the booklet by Erica Muhl are excellent, precise and comprehensible without being over-flowery, rather like the original Italian texts themselves. Lauridsen’s often extremely beautiful music is well sung by the Con Anima Chamber Choir from Aberdeen in what sounds (and looks) like a particularly atmospheric local church, of which we are given lots of session photographs including some of the composer himself obviously enjoying the performances.
The original madrigals themselves, by Monteverdi, Gesualdo and others, are a mixed bunch and quite frankly that by Giralomo Scotto - setting a text by Machiavelli, of all people - is a laughably bad piece of composition. One reads in the booklet notes that he was a publisher, and if he had not been one doubts whether this madrigal would ever have found its way into print. The madrigals are all sung by soloists from the chamber choir, who do a fine job by them. Three of the same soloists also sing the mediaeval English There is no rose (as a near-equivalent of Mealor’s A spotless rose) and this performance is an absolute highlight of the disc.
Mealor’s cycle Now sleeps the crimson petal is surprisingly close in idiom to Harbison; maybe there is a greater degree of choral blurring in the sounds he achieves, nearly coming close to Ligeti at times. That said, there is always a strong sense of melodic line and the harmonies serve to enhance rather than obscure this. There is another recording of this cycle - as indeed there is of the Harbison - and both the alternatives are given with rather larger forces, which means that the intricate vocal lines are not – as they often appear to be here – reduced to one voice to a part. This is particularly noticeable in the setting of Lady, when I behold the roses where the solo soprano counterpoint, finely sung as it is, overwhelms the melodic line which it should be accompanying. The recording by Tenebrae (on Decca) uses more sopranos on the descant line, and thus integrates it more closely into the texture. In the end, this sort of approach does the music greater justice. In fact the Tenebrae recording is obviously the one to go for if you want an entire disc of Mealor’s often magically gleaming choral music including the Ubi caritas sung at the recent Royal Wedding.
The two madrigals by Ward and Wilbye are finely done, but the Holst setting of Now sleeps the crimson petal for female voices only really does need a larger body of singers than the ten we have here; the beautiful setting by Mealor is in any case much superior to that by the relatively young and inexperienced Holst. The final two items on the disc comprise another piece by Lauridsen, a nice book-end to the Madrigali which open the disc, and an absolutely heavenly setting of Burns’s My love is like a red red rose by James MacMillan, which again would benefit from a larger number of singers to make its full effect.
Obviously there is no competition in this sort of recital, and the singing by the choir is always perfectly tuned and beautifully recorded. Lucky Aberdeen to have such a body in their locality! Could choirs making miscellaneous disc let us have more of this sort of imaginative programming please?
-- Paul Corfield Godfrey, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Madrigali - Fire Songs (6) on Italian Renaissance Poems by Morten Lauridsen
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Contemporary 
Written: 1987; Italy 
Chanson Éloignée by Morten Lauridsen
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Written: USA 
Now sleeps the crimson petal by Paul Mealor
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Contemporary 
Madrigals, Book 4: Luci serene e chiare by Carlo Gesualdo
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: by 1596; Italy 
Amor, io sento l'alma by Girolamo Scotto
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Quando son più lontan by Yvo Barry
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Ovè, lass, il bel viso by Henricus Schaffen
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
There is no rose of swych vertu by Anonymous
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Upon a bank with roses by John Ward
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Lady, when I beehold by John Wilbye
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: Renaissance 
Written: 1598; England 
So Deep by James MacMillan
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1992; Scotland 
Songs (5) from The Princess, Op. 20a/H 80: Now Sleeps The Crimson Petal by Gustav Holst
Conductor:  Paul Mealor
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Con Anima Chamber Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1905; England 

Sound Samples

Madrigali: No. 1. Ov' e, lass', il bel viso?
Madrigali: No. 2. Quando son piu lontan
Madrigali: No. 3. Amor, lo sento l'alma
Madrigali: No. 4. Io piango, che 'l dolore
Madrigali: No. 5. Luci serene e chiare
Madrigali: No. 6. Se per havervi, oime, donato il core
Madrigals, Book 1 (Madrigali, libro primo): SV 23–39: Se per avervi ohime, donato il core, SV 24
Luci serene e chiare
Io piango
Amor, io sento l'alma
Quando son piu lontan
Ov'e, lass', il bel viso?
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal: I.
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal: II. Lady, When I Behold the Roses Sprouting
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal: III. Upon a Bank With Roses Set About
Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal: IV. A Spotless Rose
There is no rose
The First Set of English Madrigals: Upon a Bank with Roses Set About
Madrigals, Book 1: Lady, when I beehold
Songs from the Princess, Op. 20a: Now sleeps the crimson petal
So Deep
Chanson eloignee

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