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  40:6 (07-08 /2017)
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Reviewer: J. F. Weber

Don Carlo Gesualdo’s final book of madrigals enjoys a range of interpretations, especially in the matter of tempo. Marco Longhini (Fanfare 37:2) takes 100 minutes in his usual relaxed fashion, as we have heard throughout his sets of madrigals of both Gesualdo and Monteverdi. La Compagnia del madrigali (36:6) takes 78 minutes, while the Kassiopeia Quintet (33:4) almost matches the new release, which also comes from the Low Countries, at 67 minutes. (It can be no more than a coincidence that each new release was slower than the last until now.) Angelo Ephrikian’s ancient set of Gesualdo’s madrigals was later issued on CD as a boxed set; Kassiopeia and Longhini have also recorded all six books, also issued as boxed sets, consistently the fastest and slowest versions on record. Until now, that is, for Herreweghe’s total timing in this book is the fastest of all. (My player’s readout is stated in the headnote, although the booklet prints two other timings, 67:35 and 75:15.) Some madrigals work well, others are entirely too fast for any comprehension. The singing, accompanied by a lute, is elegant, as might be expected of Herreweghe. The recording was made in a church in Asciano, Italy, marking 45 years from the founding of the ensemble.

While I prefer published sets of works such as these over miscellaneous collections, it’s too much of a stretch to choose one boxed set of the whole corpus among the oldest, fastest, and slowest offerings available. La Compagnia de madrigali remains the preferred choice for Book 6, La Venexiana for Books 5 and 4 (29:2 and 24:3), two groups that share some members; the first three books can be conveniently found in a two-disc set from the Gesualdo Consort Amsterdam (29:3). Longhini remains an interesting alternative for its unconventionally slow tempos.


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