Georg Schimmelpfennig (c.1582-1637): La buona et felice mano: Italienische Madrigale 1615

Pan (650), 2014.
51pp, €25.00.

Georg Schimmelpfennig seems to have a curious name, but nevertheless had some success, becoming a member of the Kasseler Hofkapelle. He was in particular the teacher of the La Serenissima Principessa Elisabeth Landgravine of Hesse. Unlike the usual habit of sending musicians to Venice (as illustrated by the series of madrigals, including Schütz, sponsored by Gabrieli), this collection of madrigals (not Magridal as on the end of the modern title page!) belongs more to the monodic settings and texts were more of Caccini and the Florentine style. There are 11 un-numbered songs for voice and bass. Sing there are two versions published, it’s easier to locate songs by number than page. I find it odd that the editor has modernised the verse by removing initial capitals – modern Italians seems obsessed with this, but it is surely helpful to keep the capitals to clarify the lines: either they help to check the common break at the beginning of a new line, or they realise that the continuation from the previous line needs some musical point. Rhythmic layout tends towards four minims per bar, though there are sometimes six minims and some irregularities. I don’t see any reason for changing them.

Accidentals are more of a problem. The editor is a bit too strong in asserting that “an additional accidental applies only to the note that it precedes and to any immediate repetition of it”. Surely the convention should apply editorially to the realisation as well. So in the first piece, bar 7, the composer notated the F sharps with a G in between, whereas the realisation has a sharp in the first chord but not at the second, which coincides with the second sharp for the singer. The same practice occurs in bars 14 and 20. I don’t think that there should be two principles. It would be much more useful to performers to print the original (ie voice and Bc) and the keyboard can play the score as in the current edition if he needs it. I’ve tried to look at the music without the right hand, and I didn’t realise for some time that there was an alternative version without realisation, which makes it easier to place a piece on a pair of pages without turns.

Fuggimi quanto poi (no. 9) can be compared with the page of facsimile, which without a realisation gets more than two pages onto one! Bar 11 has a single minim. This isn’t a musical idea but an end of the line: add it to bar 12 and you get the normal four minims! In the realisation at bars 15-17, the right hand is given E flats which only seem plausible for the first note of the three bars and the rest do not need them until the beginning of bar 19, but I’m not sure that the E flats are relevant in the group of 8 semiquavers. Bars 27-28 need something unusual for et alla morte: perhaps keep the first bar plain with the top note the D above middle C, then leave the C bare in the next bar.

I’m not going to comment on every bar, but the singer and players need to be alert and it is much less complex if the accompanist doesn’t have to sort out the page-turning. It is certainly a good collection: a pity Schimmelpfenning abandoned music for what we might now call his later life as being a senior civil servant.

Clifford Bartlett