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Pallavicino: Il sesto libro de madrigali a cinque voci: 1600.

This clutch of recordings conveyed several messages to me. First, my reluctance to believe in `great' composers has taken a battering from Monteverdi's pivotal role in all the repertory on display. Second, I no longer-need to fret about performers who believe that Agostino Agazzari's classification of instruments meant that all those described as useful for continuo purposes would perform together: the days of the continuo supergroup, the lavish instrumentations of Les Arts Florissants, appear to have passed. Third, the Italians have recaptured their heritage and now have several ensembles producing the finest recordings yet made of 16th- and 17th-century Italian vocal music.

The Consort of Musicke, directed by Anthony Rooley, has shown us so much of the madrigal repertory over the years-especially in some exciting live performances--that I wished that their recording of Benedetto Pallavicino: Il sesto libro de madrigal) a cinque voci (1600) (Musica Oscura 070976, rec 1994) might stand up against the Italian competition. It faced four obstacles. First, the Consort's considerable talents appear to be tiring of late 16th-century repertory: one gets a sense that a standard style of performance is being applied, rather than a fresh approach to new pieces. Second, its members sound like good interpreters, not native speakers, in this music which springs overwhelmingly from language. In particular, they are reluctant to attack the harsher sounds of the texts and they overuse the messa di voce in the corresponding musical dissonances. Third, the volume levels on the recording appear to have been smoothed for radio broadcast and we are therefore, as in some of their other recordings, missing their full dynamic range, with anaemic-sounding results.

The final obstacle is Pallavicino's music. The musicologist in me has no quarrel with Emma Wakelin's programme note that Pallavicino, Monteverdi's boss for several years and a prolific and well-regarded madrigalist, is an important figure. All credit to Anthony Rooley for making his music available to listeners. Taken in small doses, the madrigals are delightful. As a listener, however, I found myself agreeing with Monteverdi's judgement, however biased, that Pallavicino was an `adequate' composer, at least by comparison with himself.

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Title Annotation:Consort of Musicke, Anthony Rooley
Author:Mabbett, Margaret
Publication:Early Music
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:May 1, 1996
Words:351
Previous Article:Cavalli: Vespro della beata Vergine.
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