The madrigals of Monteverdi are famously complex marriages of text and music in which no effort is spared to illustrate the expression of love lost and found within the given form of densely textured vocal chamber music. The canzonettas are rather simpler, both to sing and to appreciate, though not without many of their own pleasures. They have been overlooked on record in favour of complete madrigal collections, but this new recording should help to reassess their value.
Monteverdi’s collection begins with a text in homage to ‘il signor Pietro Ambrosini’, to whom the publication was dedicated. It concludes with a formal expression of farewell and thanks to his listeners. In between are another 19 songs, derived from a form first devised by Orazio Vecchi, perhaps with amateur musicians and domestic settings in mind given their less elaborate qualities. Monteverdi is prepared to be musically more radical than Vecchi, however, and while largely respecting the homophonic declamation of text which is prescribed by the genre, there are passages of exuberant ornamentation and sighing echoes according to the nature of the poetic expression, whether laughing or crying from love.
Armoniosoincanto is an ensemble of largely female voices which has been performing and recording for almost 20 years; this is their third recording for Brilliant Classics, after beautifully contoured discs of Couperin (the Masses for the Parishes and Convents, BC94333) and the rather less familiar Laudario di Cortona (BC94872), a chant-book from the Middle Ages. They are based in the regions of Umbria and Tuscany, in the heart of Italy, and made this recording in the Umbrian town of Assisi. For this recording they were joined by a mixed period-instrument ensemble of flutes, violas, theorbo and harpsichord.
The genre “canzonette” is the light version of the madrigal: using only 3 voices it is playful and popular in character, based on secular poems in a strophic form of 3 or 4 verses with ritornello.
Monteverdi composed his “Canzonette a tre voci” when he was 17, in order to gain recognition with a wider audience, and they have proven to be a perfect preparation for the more serious and complex works he later embarked on, such as the madrigals and the operas.
Performed with the right light hearted mood and dramatic impact by Armoniosoincanto, conducted by Franco Radicchia, using a rich continuo ensemble consisting of flutes, viola da braccia, viola da gamba, theorbo, baroque guitar and harpsichord.
The booklet contains scholarly written liner notes and biography, both in Italian and English.