This disc, apparently compiled from preexisting recordings, was made to accompany an art exhibition covering the papal sphere in Rome in the early seventeenth century. Given that it is meant, perhaps, to illustrate general aesthetic principles, one might forgive the omission of texts for the vocal pieces. Not all the music here would normally be classified as Baroque, but it is all Baroque in the original sense of the word; it is dramatic, moody, and full of sharp and irregular contrasts. Indeed, a major attraction of the program lies in how it presents an appropriate mixture of pieces from a period in which some but not all music had begun to reflect the harmonic principle -- nobody was worrying in 1610, after all, about what was Renaissance and what was Baroque. Instead, even in the papal realm, an intense yet mannered aesthetic ruled. Anyone who likes the weird, twisted madrigals of Carlo Gesualdo will find one here, and will also find more, and rarer, music in the same vein, by such composers as Pomponio Nenna and the slightly later Michelangelo Rossi. Stranger still is the sacred Lamentum Matris Euryali of Domenico Mazzocchi, track 10; sample the beginning of this piece to hear a unique experiment in text declamation from the early Baroque. After the sequence of hyperexpressive pieces on the album, the concluding Magnificat of Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, so often heard as a luxuriant exploration of new spatial realms, comes as a serene imposition of order on unruly materials. Many of the vocal pieces are sung by one voice, accompanied by a consort of viols similar to one known to have been maintained by the popes of the era. Sample a track featuring the boyish soprano of Evelyn Tubb (for example, track 1 or 3); reactions to it will be personal, but her voice has a strangeness that works well in this repertory. Other works are accompanied by a lute or chitarrone, and the program is broken up by some beautifully played works for solo lute by Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger. One might wish that the art-music connections involved in the album had been fleshed out a bit more -- there are a few paintings on the outer jacket, but none in the booklet itself, where the aesthetic principles of the time are discussed. Nevertheless, the aficionado of Gesualdo will find a new and broader outlook on his music in the program here.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Lamentum Matris Euryali, for voice & continuo (Dialoghi, e Sonetti posti in musica da Domenico Mazzocchi)
|Vespro della beata vergine, for chorus & instruments, SV 206|