Gesualdo: Dolcissimo Veleno

La Dolce Maniera, Luigi Gaggero
54:23
Stradivarius STR 37010

La dolce maniera have adopted a highly original approach to the love madrigal here by taking at least one madrigal from each of Gesualdo’s published volumes, twenty madrigals in all, and arranging them into a ‘romantic song cycle’ charting the establishment, growth and eventual implosion of a romance. The sequence is indeed cumulatively effective, although perhaps mercifully it doesn’t culminate in the sort of bloodbath which accompanied Gesualdo’s own disappointment in love in real life! The group’s highly ‘affected’ style of singing works very well with this mercurial repertoire. Less convincing is the decision to sing the music untransposed, leaving some of the soprano lines painfully and awkwardly high. I can understand the principle of this, but we now live in world where the prevailing judgement of musicologists seems to be to ‘sing it where it feels comfortable’, and just occasionally here the sopranos sound seriously uncomfortable. The group’s director Luigi Gaggero would argue that this discomfort is just the effect Gesualdo was looking for, but the fact is that nobody wants to listen to distressed singers, and I began to wonder uncharitably whether he had developed this theory before or after listening to the recordings. The fact is these are not impossibly high notes in themselves and perhaps the sopranos just needed to develop a slightly different technical approach. Anyway I don’t want this relatively minor issue to overshadow an otherwise enjoyable and innovative recording.

D. James Ross