Search - Cipriano de Rore, Emilio de' Cavalieri, Luzzasco Luzzaschi :: Virtuoso Italian Vocal Music

Virtuoso Italian Vocal Music
Cipriano de Rore, Emilio de' Cavalieri, Luzzasco Luzzaschi
Virtuoso Italian Vocal Music
Genres: Special Interest, Pop, Classical
  •  Track Listings (21) - Disc #1


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Hark! Is That a Lark?
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 04/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Nay, sire, 'tis a Bott - Catherine Bott - and not even the Emperor's Nightingale can sing more sweetly!

I remember hearing this CD in '85 or 86', when it was first issued, and thinking to myself "This is it! This is the sound they heard in Venice in 1584!" 1584 was the year when Giralamo dalla Casa published his 'manual' for playing divisions - "passagi" - on the cornetto and other instruments. The cornetto was the great virtuoso instrument of the era, and dalla Casa's ornamentations exactly suited its capabilities: perfectly 'white' tone (without vibrato, ringingly clear), lightening-fast arpeggios and sequences, precise articulations with a variety of hard and soft tonguings. And since the cornetto was universally acclaimed as the instrument that most perfectly resembled the human voice, then the soprano voice must likewise have resembled the cornetto. This performance by Catherine Bott was effectively the first in modern times to achieve that ideal. As a cornettist myself, though just on the edge of switching to bassoon, I was thrilled and daunted.

"Some of my best friends" in those days were sopranos, and I can testify that they were daunted also. With one CD, Catherine Bott had raised the bar for the singing of the repertoire of virtuosic Italian solo madrigals, by composers like Caccini, Monteverdi, Cavalieri, and Rossi. Musicologists until then had been assuming that the 'exercises' published by dalla Casa and Bassano and others were just that - intellectual 'exercises' that could never have represented the actual styles of playing and singing. Bott proved otherwise in one performance. Bott has extended her interests since 1985 into more modern repertoires, into films, and even into broadcasting on BBC, but this recording was her an apex performance. No one has ever yet sung this music more perfectly. What a joy to find that it has been re-released!

The earliest piece on the CD is by Cipriano da Rore (1515-1565) and the latest is by Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674). Thus the performance covers a century of Italian vocal virtuosity, featuring the same extravagance and exuberance throughout. Almost all of it is in Italian, and people will be happy to know that texts with translations are included. The most familiar piece is Claudio Monteverdi's "Laudate Dominum," sung ravishingly as a solo ritornello. Ms. Bott is accompanied tastefully by Nigel North on lute, Frances Kelly on historical harps, and David Roblou on keyboards. One might expect an album of 21 short pieces for a single soprano voice to be cloying, but 'one' would be dead wrong! The variety of rhythm, tempo, and affect with which Bott delivers these songs is as fascinating as a fireworks display over the Grand Canal.