Andrea Gabrieli (1533–1585) Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643)
Madrigals adapted for use as Sacred Music
At the beginning of the seventeenth century, several collections of rather unusual madrigals appeared in the north-west of Italy. The definition of this new musical genre that is most comprehensible for us is the one that was given by one of its major authors, Aquilino Coppini: Musica tolta da i madrigali e fatta spirituale (music drawn from madrigals and rendered spiritual).
What actually happened was that a well-defined circle of men of letters and musicians ventured upon the feat of transforming some madrigals by replacing their original texts with lines of sacred verse in Latin. It was not a translation, as in some English versions of Italian madrigals, but an actual replacement of the text with another one based on a completely different subject-matter.
The creation of the madrigale reso spirituale, the “madrigal rendered spiritual”, is a combination of extraordinarily expressive music and texts that were particularly close to the Catholic sensitivity of that period.
Is performing madrigals as if they were motets a challenge that can be taken up nowadays as well? In an age in which philology has become quite important, exploring these “spurious” or “counterfeit” works may not seem a very interesting operation. Yet these madrigals, in their modified guise, seem to recapture a high degree of communicativeness that otherwise would be hard to perceive for us today.
The ensemble: Alice Borciani, cantus I, Elena Modena, cantus II, Julio Fioravante, altus, Marco Mustaro, tenor, Yiannis Vassilakis, bassus I, Marcin Wyszkowski, bassus II
Nicola Lamon, organ
Marco Gemmani, conductor
This CD is a brilliant example of how well the new texts fit and how marvellous they sound with this ensemble. The fluency, imagination and emotion of the madrigals … survive the verbal metamorphosis brilliantly, and the performance of the six singers is utterly convincing.
Early Music Review 151, December 2012
The CD makes good impression, through the flowing performance of the vocal ensemble I Cantori di San Marco, conducted by Marco Gemmani with fine sensibility and fluency … the interpretation signifies exactly the numerous refinements of the musical structure and the rare expression of many pages, particularly in the wonderful Plorat amare, a piece with a lot of chromatic passages.
Musica, February 2013, Claudio Bolzan