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D'India: 'Silvio e Dorinda' e le monodie su poesia del Petrarca.

Last but definitely not least is the bizarrely mistitled Sigismondo d'lndia: `Silvio e Dorinda' e le monodie su poesia de] Petrarca (Symphonia SY 93S25, rec 1993), from I Febi Armonici, directed by Alan Curtis. From the front cover one would be justified in expecting lots of Sigismondo d'lndia and lots of monody. There are just under 8 minutes of monody on this recording (all of it by d'lndia), which leaves nearly an hour for three settings of the Silvio and Dorinda text (Guarini's 11 pastor fido, IV, ix) for five voices by d'lndia, Luca Marenzio and Claudio Monteverdi respectively, plus two of Monteverdi's largescale Petrarch settings from 1638 and 1640. Admittedly, it is difficult to describe this wonderful programme both accurately and concisely: I hope that monody fans will buy it in error and be converted to polyphony.

In the contest between the Pastor fido settings, Monteverdi's is the loser, for the reasons I described above. It is also the least secure performance by this fine group, who otherwise give Concerto Italiano some real competition. They overemphasize the Monteverdi in an attempt to keep the forward momentum going, whereas both the Marenzio and the d'lndia are self-propelling: Marenzio through elegant, concise construction, and d'lndia through a splendidly over-the-top attempt to cap the earlier versions (the d'India setting of these texts, in his eighth madrigal book (1624), was the last). D'India's music shows a fascinating range of influences, from the extravagant harmonies of turn-nf-the-century Neapolitan and Sicilian madrigals to declamatory passages which suggest familiarity with some of Monteverdi's most recent work--quite plausible since these madrigals were composed at the Este court in Modena while it was commissioning work from Monteverdi around 1622.

The recording is close to the singers, creating intimacy even in grand, large-scale works such as Monteverdi's Hor che'l ciel. As a result the generous continuo instrumentation is unobtrusive, while any technical deficiencies in the singing are exposed. I was particularly sorry that the last image of Hor che'l ciel, the grandiloquent two-octave scale on `son lunge', was taken so slowly and broken by so many breaths that its overall shape was lost. The Marenzio shows the group at its best: well tuned, good ensemble, lovely voices, punchy delivery but none of the `I'm-not-sure-what-to-do-here-so-let's-emphasizeevery-second-syll able' which dogs the Monteverdi Ecco, Silvio, colei. Will I Febi Armonici catch up with Concerto Italiano? Watch this space.

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Title Annotation:Alan Curtis, I Febi Armonici
Author:Mabbett, Margaret
Publication:Early Music
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:May 1, 1996
Previous Article:Lamenti barocchi, vol. 1.
Next Article:Haydn: Missa Sancti Bernardi de Offida (Heiligmesse), Mare clausum, Motets, Te deum.

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