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Luca Marenzio is, for many, the purist’s madrigal composer: a prime exponent of the prima pratica (before that upstart Monteverdi came along and broke all the rules), but also receptive of and responsive to the latest compositional trends, his works are perfectly formed and range from the light and frothy to the wrought and chromatic. He was certainly the one composer in the genre whose fame spread the farthest – the appearance of his music in the 1588 Musica Transalpina, published in London, was hugely influential in sparking the English craze for madrigals; and, had he lived longer (he died aged 45), would undoubtedly now share in the wider renown enjoyed by Monteverdi and Gesualdo.

The Italian madrigal super-group La Compagnia del Madrigale won a Gramophone Award for their recording of Marenzio’s first book of five-part madrigals, and now they turn to one of the composer’s most innovative collections. While they have illustrious forebears in this repertoire – most notably the Consort of Musicke, Concerto Italiano and La Venexiana – this album sets a new standard for madrigal performance. The singing is effortlessly serene and polished, yet the voices can turn to harsh and anguished in a split second when the text demands it; the balance (both in terms of volume and of importance of the voices – the group credits no conductor and jointly produced the disc) is ideal; and Glossa’s customary excellent engineering means that the singers are captured beautifully.

Adrian Horsewood Read the full review on Agora Classica


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