Luzzaschi: Madrigals, Motets & Instrumental music

Profeti della Quinta
69:29
Pan Classics PC 10350

Luzzaschi is chiefly known as the composer of a collection of madrigals for the Dame of Ferrara, his Madrigale per cantare et sonare a uno, doi e tre soprani, catering for the virtuoso voices of the world’s most famous vocal trio before the Three Tenors. There are a couple of items from that collection here sung very effectively by soprano and male alto, but it is the other material from Luzzaschi’s other publications that interested me more. These include madrigals in five and six parts, sacred music and instrumental ricercars, and toccatas. Who knew that Luzzaschi was so versatile and so thoroughly competent in such a wide range of genres? The performances are beautifully musical, and one particular highlight is an arrangement by the group’s director Elam Rotem for one of the group’s counter-tenors and harpsichord of a five-part madrigal, which, taking the music for the Ladies of Ferrara as a model, he encrusts with decoration.

In comparison to his sparkling secular music, his sacred music, while utterly competent lacks perhaps the sheer verve of the other repertoire. As I have suggested, variety is the keynote of this excellent CD, and I found myself enjoying thoroughly an organ rendition of one of Luzzaschi’s canzonas, and the group’s polished viol consort playing his ricercars, while the finely balanced and delicately ornamented singing was a constant delight. For added variety, the viols play a couple of galliards by Luzzaschi’s contemporary, Giovanni Anerio, primarily known for his sacred choral music, but clearly also a master of instrumental chamber music. I have not always been entirely complimentary about Elam Rotem’s projects in the past, but this one seems to me entirely laudable and beautifully realized. Incidentally, full marks for the cover illustration, Titian’s ‘Venus with an organist and a dog’ in which the musician gazes at the rather corpulent goddess in search, one hopes, of musical inspiration.

D. James Ross