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Sigismondo d'India
arias, canzonettas, madrigals, laments and a musical love letter

O del cielo d’amor; O che gradita; Sfere fermate; Tu mi lasci, o cruda, o bella; Pallidetta quai viola; Vaghe faville; Da l’onde del mio pianto; Intenerite voi; Lagrimate, occhi miei; “Mercè!” grido piangendo; E pur tu parti; Lamento di Olimpia; Canto di rosignolo; Lettera amorosa del Cavalier Marin; La Virtù (Prologo); Piangono al pianger mio (Ottava) Giovanni Kapsberger (1580-1651): Preludio IV Alessandro Piccinni (1560-1638): Toccata IV & XI, Ciaccona

Gudrun Anders, soprano
Sigrun Richter, archlute & chitarrone
Hille Perl, viola da gamba & lirone

CHRISTOPHORUS - CHE 0134-2 [70'11'']

- - one of Carlo Gesualdo di Venosa's circle of musicians, a contemporary of Monteverdi who wrote exclusively vocal music, the musical language of Sigismondo d'India (c.1582-1629) seems even today astonishingly audacious with its chromatic idioms, unresolved dissonances and emotional interval leaps. This CD offers a cross section of his works for solo voice with continuo: arias, canzonettas, madrigals, laments and a musical love letter - - so we are told in the extensive English language introduction to this intriguing production [Gudrun Anders].

This information, and the list of contents above, comes from diverdi.com, which tells visitors - in English - that "we are working in the conviction that we are building Europe’s most important online source for independent classical music".

The singer and commentator, who teaches historical singing in Leipzig, is a passionate soprano with an individual voice and style, one who lives every narrative moment of these vocal works and heightens expression with surprising bending of the tones.

The Italian texts (many by D'India himself) are provided - but no translations, a very serious deficiency. There are brief synopses of just a few of the items, but e.g "the writer likens the eyes of his adored to the light of the stars in heaven" really is not enough to sustain an eight minute love letter...

The accompaniments on a variety of plucked and bowed instruments (meticulously matched track by track so that we know exactly what we are hearing) are delightful, and there are a few brief instrumental interpositions which are very welcome.

For Italian speakers this is a very recommendable disc indeed, but the rest of us deserve more help.

Is there any possibility of the record company making the texts and translations available on their website? I have been addressing this perennial problem again earlier this week with the French label timpani, in respect of their important collections of French chansons by Chabrier, Roussel etc: q.v. timpani-overview.

John Dowland, Giulio Caccini, Pierre Guédron, Anthony Holborne, Daniel Batchela etc

Robert Dowland's Musical Banquet (1610)
Passava Amor su arco Desarmado. Lady if you so spite me. Dovro dunque morire?. Amarilli mia bella. Si le parler et le silence. Se di farmi morire. O eyes leave off your weeping. Vuestros ojos tienen d’Amor. In a grove most rich of shade. Go my flock go get you hence. O bella piu che le stelle. My heavy sprite. To plead my faith. Ce penser qui sans fin tirannise ma vie. O dear life when shall it be?. Change thy mind since she doth change. Vous que le Bonheur rappelle. In darkness let me dwell. Sta notte mi sognava. Far from triumphing court.

Monika Mauch & Nigel North

ECM New Series 476 6397

We have had to wait three years for this interesting multilingual collection of English, French, Spanish and Italian lute songs collected mainly by John Dowland, published by his son Robert (who was "more of a player rather than a composer") and recorded May 2005 in St Gerold, a venue favoured by ECM. The photos are by the recording engineer; his cover image is so dark I prefer the shot of the artists.

To my taste, the pure, boyish soprano of Monika Mauch is a shade cool and uninvolving, albeit scrupulously accurate. Nigel North, as always, cannot be faulted, and his few solos, four Galliards and one Pavin, are exquisite.

One criticises ECM presentation with hesitation - inscrutable cover images are an idiosyncratic feature of the label, and the documentation is efficient even though some of the liner notes are less than helpful (not so Nigel North's here). Full texts and translations are provided, but awkwardly printed sequentially rather than parallel across the page, so you sometimes have to turn overleaf to see the words in the language of your choice... And the printing is pale, unkind to those of us with less than perfect eyesight.

I think it has to be a matter of taste whether one goes for Monika Mauch's understatement* or (above) Gudrun Anders's emotionalism (lacking translations) in Sigismondo d'India.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* q.v. - - a superb, understated interpreter of these songs - - Her unaccented pronunciation of all four languages is perfect, and every word of text is perfectly delivered - - beautifully sung - - a jolly good listen as a programme, of course. [David Hill, Early Music Review]