L’Amorosa Caccia: 24 Five-voice Madrigals by Mantuan Masters (Venezia 1588/1592)

Edited by Stefania Lanzo.
Ut Orpheus (ODH35).
xiv + 127pp, €37.95.

The only complete copy (1592) survives in the Royal College of Music, London. There are two fragmentary examples of the 1588 version: one (in Modena) lacks the top and bottom parts. The other, in the Marucelliana library, has only the Quintus. Judging by the presence of only one page to note emendments, editorial problems seem to be minimal. Half a dozen mixed-author volumes were printed in 1588, including two well-known ones: L’amoroso ero (from Brescia) and Musica Transalpina (from London), which is a different type of anthology contain­ing a large number of famous works. L’amorosa caccia has mostly minor composers – the editor has ignored their dates, perhaps because most of them are not known. Four by Tasso, one by Grillo & Cagnani and one by Celiano. It would be helpful if the poems and the scores were numbered. I won’t repeat my usual comment on modernising spelling: Hor che le stelle, not Or che… And an English translation of the texts would be helpful.

All the music is for five parts, with fairly consistent ranges. 16 are in chiavette (e. g., G2 G2 C2 C3 F3), while the other eight are in the lower range (generally thought, perhaps wrongly, as standard) C1 C1 C3 C4 F4. There are, of course, some variants. Singers of the period must have been familiar with changing clefs, though few modern singers manage it! For those in such a situation, it would have been helpful to list in the contents whether chiavette or stet and which parts had two identical pitches. The 24 pieces may be a bit too many, but they are definitely worth singing in smaller batches – in which case, singers could sing chiavette at notated pitch in one session and notated pitch pieces in another. But it’s quite expensive to have six or seven copies, depending how wide singers’ ranges are: a facsimile might be more economic and useful, and pitches can more easily be adapted. Two singers can easily read the same part, which is an economy. There are, however, facsimiles of Musica Transalpina, which has a wider range of styles and major composers.

Clifford Bartlett