Notes and Editorial Reviews
Madrigals: Book 1; Book 9
Claudio Cavina, dir; La Venexiana
GLOSSA 920921 (73:00
Text and Translation)
Madrigals, Book 3
Claudio Cavina, dir; La Venexiana
GLOSSA 920923 (62:35
class="ARIAL12">Text and Translation)
The first disc concludes a complete recording of Monteverdi’s published madrigals, a project many times begun but never finished until now. The series began with Book 7 (26:4, later renumbered as 920927), Book 3 (26:4, renumbered here), Book 4 (28:5), Book 2 (reviewed elsewhere), Book 6 (to be reviewed shortly), Book 8 (29:6), Book 5 (31:5), and finally the first and last of the published collections. Actually, Book 9 was a posthumous edition, published by Vincenti (who had published Book 8) eight years after the composer’s death. In it the publisher assembled 16 pieces, including four madrigals already published in Book 8 (hence not recorded again here) and “Zefiro torna” from
of 1632. All of these, especially “Bel pastor,” have long been familiar on records. Longstanding collectors will remember that the first collection of Book 9 was in a five-disc set (Books 8, 9, and 10) under Raymond Leppard, who made the earliest serious effort to record the complete madrigals; his Book 8 was later reissued alone (4:5). Denis Stevens recorded the same 12 pieces heard here on Musical Heritage Society 3104 (first announced as Dover 7297), and the Rivo Alto label has the set on a presumably skimpy CD. The so-called Book 10 was a collection assembled by Malapiero when he was editing the complete works (Leppard even recorded three more songs, first published in 1634, that Malapiero had overlooked), and presumably it is not part of Cavina’s plans.
This is the sixth complete set of Book 1, but only Rooley (not received here) and Longhini (27:1) are worth mentioning. When Rooley, recorded in 1990 and 1991, was reviewed in an insular publication as late as 1996, his disc was hailed as a first recording, ignoring two versions on LP. On the basis of the style of Rooley’s other Monteverdi discs, it is certainly closer to the new release than Longhini’s is, as the review of the latter disc makes clear. Longhini’s downward transposition for an all-male vocal ensemble and his use of continuo (admittedly a possible alternative) in half of the pieces gives his series of recordings (the first six books have appeared already) a special place in the discography, not directly comparable with any others. Cavina gives us the finest reading of Book 1 that I have heard. The sound is brighter than Longhini’s all-male ensemble, and often more sensitive in expression. Typical of Longhini, his timings are longer (in all but three madrigals) than Cavina’s, often noticeably slower. All three of these discs include fillers, since the First Book fitted the length of an LP better than a CD, but here Cavina has the most generous filler, as well as the most significant. While his singers are unaccompanied in Book 1, he uses a continuo group in Book 9.
The reissue of Book 3 is significant mainly for the digipack that replaces the jewel box in which the first two issues were released. The repackaged discs were entered into a series of issue numbers that replicated, in a 920920 series, the numbers of the published books. Like Book 7, the reissue has a smaller booklet containing a new note, not as long as the original. This is a minor fault, though, suggesting only that if you bought them when they first appeared you have nothing to regret.
How essential is the first complete set of Monteverdi’s madrigals sung by one ensemble? Allowing for the change of membership (only Cavina and Giuseppe Maletto have stuck it out for these nine years), this is a remarkably stylish group that shares Cavina’s vision, and I have no hesitation in recommending it as a whole. I hope to offer a comparison of their Book 6 very soon (it was not sent when first issued), but there is no reason to expect that it is not up to snuff. Rooley never got around to Book 7, and Alessandrini is barely halfway through the list so far, while Leppard also got only halfway through before stopping. Longhini may yet complete his recent project, but it must be judged as a different approach to the music.
Do you need an integral set, given the multiple offerings of integral single books and the countless collections that reach across the boundaries? Even Cavina has such a mixed collection (27:5), drawn from all but the first and third books, suggesting that many interpreters would rather make up their own programs. The problem with that approach is that we get multiple versions of certain favorite works with the neglect of many others. The recorded versions of
Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
(from Book 8) are approaching 50, and I haven’t even counted some other favored pieces. If you want to hear a unified conception of Monteverdi’s work, you can do no better than add Cavina’s recordings to anything you may already have.
FANFARE: J. F. Weber
Works on This Recording
Madrigals, Book 3 by Claudio Monteverdi
Written: by 1592; Mantua, Italy
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