Marenzio: Quinto Libro di Madrigali

Floral design

La Compagnia del Madrigale
Glossa GCD922804

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]his CD by the superb Compagnia del Madrigale is something of a masterclass in madrigal singing. I decided to take the opportunity to try to analyse the secrets of the Compagnia’s impressive soundworld. The voices are all of course superb in their own right, rounded, supremely expressive and completely stable at whatever dynamic they are singing. However, I went on to detect two further features which I think help with this specific repertoire. The first may seem obvious but is by no means uniform or even universally regarded as a virtue among small vocal ensembles : this is the rigorous avoidance of vibrato. The soprano section is particularly striking in this respect, but on this CD there are also impressively ‘true’ entries from tenors and altos. Debate all you like about how singers of the period may have sung with or without vibrato, there is no denying that performances of madrigals which are largely vibrato-free allow the listener to appreciate the full power of the polyphonic writing. The searing power of vibratoless musical exclamations is also undeniable. The second feature is the perfect blend of clearly defined voices, achieved interestingly without a conductor. I wouldn’t like the superlative quality of the singing to overshadow the music in my review, so I should say that this CD confirms Luca Marenzio as one of the most underrated madrigal composers in spite of recent efforts to bring his music to wider attention. These six-part works are masterpieces of counterpoint using cutting-edge harmonic manipulation to match the twists and turns of the texts.

D. James Ross

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