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GRAMOPHONE (12/2022)
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Reviewer :
Fabrice Fitch

Giaches de Wert’s scant discography is no reflection of his music’s intrinsic worth, or its influence on later composers (not least the youthful Monteverdi: just listen to the delightful echo piece ‘Non mi cognosci tu?’). Voces Suaves here turn their attention to the splendid late madrigals of the ninth and tenth books. An obvious starting point is ‘Mia benigna fortuna’, a text famously set by Cipriano, to which Wert brings something equally personal and affecting (not least at the start of the second part, at ‘Crudel, acerba, inesorabil Morte’); one can then go on to ‘Datemi pace’ and ‘Quel rossignol’, and ‘Vago augelletto’. The inclusion of lighter selections from a print of 1589 (which takes in French and Spanish texts as well as Italian ones), here arranged for voices and instruments, balances these profoundly serious works (mostly taken with voices only), making for a varied and effective recital, which aficionados of the repertoire won’t want to miss (a potential ‘rival’ recording on Glossa by La Venexiana duplicates none of its contents).

Voces Suaves are new to me; they bring legible and effective performances, and their choices from piece to piece generally make sense, though I would have welcomed a more generous helping of the meatier late madrigals (with a total of just under an hour, there would surely be room for more). Among the later madrigals, ‘Vago augelletto’ shows them off at their best; another highlight is Mirjam Wernl’s solo in ‘Misera, quanto tempo’. Elsewhere, one misses the sense of an ensemble fully inhabiting the music, especially when elasticity of tempo or the finishing touches of refined vocal shading are called for (and, speaking of finishing touches, accuracy, as at ‘cagion mi dai di mai non esser lieto’ in ‘Mia benigna fortuna’) to achieve its full impact. The lighter pieces do better, though these might have been still sharper on their feet. But for all that, the impact of Wert’s music is powerful indeed. Iain Fenlon’s programme note is an elegant introduction.


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