Philippe Verdelot was the most important composer of Italian madrigals in the early 16th century and recognized as the greatest innovator of the genre. A Frenchman, he occupied several important musical posts in Italy, including the Florentine posts of maestro di cappella at the Baptistry of S. Maria del Fiore and the great Duomo itself. In the mid 1520s, during his time in Florence, a set of part-books were assembled, probably under Verdelot's supervision, for the court of Henry VIII. Most, if not all, of the works were composed by Verdelot. This is the first recording of the complete madrigals in the collection, which stands not only as the most exceptional of diplomatic musical gifts but is also an important source for the history of the early madrigal. ALAMIRE Founded by David Skinner in 2005, Alamire is made up of some of the finest consort singers in the UK and exist in order to explore and promote the compositional processes behind the great masterworks, and lesser-known works, of the late medieval and early modern periods. Other recordings on the Obsidian label include the madrigals of Philippe Verdelot from the Newberry-Oscott partbooks, which in 1526 were a gift from the city of Florence to Henry VIII, and a recording of the church and chamber music of Thomas Tomkins with the Choir of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and the viol consort Fretwork. Other projects include sound installations for art galleries and soundtracks for television and film. David Skinner is known primarily for his combined role as a researcher and performer of early music, and is Fellow and Director of Music at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Music. He teaches historical and practical topics from the medieval and renaissance periods. From 1997 to 2001 he was a Postdoctoral Fellow of the British Academy at Christ Church, Oxford (where he was a Choral Scholar from 1989 to 1994), and was the Lecturer in Music at Magdalen College, Oxford, from 2001 to 2006. At Cambridge he conducts the Choir of Sidney Sussex College, with whom he has toured and made professional recordings. He has published widely on music and musicians of early Tudor England, and his most recent projects include the collected works of Nicholas Ludford (Early English Church Music, 2003 & 2005) and The Arundel Choirbook (Duke of Norfolk: Roxburghe Club, 2003). He is currently editing the Latin church music of John Sheppard for publication in 2008, and co-authoring a book on music and the English Reformation.
Solid Scholarship, Good Intentions...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 10/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... but not on a vocal par with ensembles like La Venexiana or Il Complesso Barocco, singing similar repertoire. Honestly, if I'd heard David Skinner's ensemble Alamire ten or fifteen years ago, I might have been thrilled by their understanding of the madrigal form, but the leadership in 'early music' has shifted away from England to France and Italy, and today this performance sounds academic. The singers, I suspect, are recruited from the choral ranks of Oxford and Cambridge. Skinner has been active at both universities.
Philippe Verdelot was a Frenchman who spent the central and most important years of his career in the early 16th Century in Italy, particularly in Florence. He is known to have been a close pal of Niccolo Macchiavelli. He is clearly an important link between the Parisian composers of madrigalesque chansons, Sermisy for instance, and the up-and-coming Italians of the next generation. In other words, the archetypal Italian madrigal of Marenzio/Gesualdo/Monteverdi/d'India had a French parentage.
All the madrigals on this CD come from a set of five part-books (open score didn't exist) prepared under Verdelot's supervision in Florence around 1526 and presented as a gift to the English King Henry VIII. The history of their survival in quite fascinating. From Henry's library, years later somehow they passed into the hands of Francis Tregian, a Catholic recusant who died in prison for his crime of conscience in 1619. Then, amazingly, four of the partbooks reappeared in the 19th Century, in the possession of a series of antiquarian book collectors. Bernard Quaritch, the last of the collectors, sold the four partbooks to the Newberry Library in Chicago in 1935; thus the set is now known as the Newberry Partbooks. However, the alto partbook was presumed lost forever, and a musicologist named Colin Slim attempted a re-composition of that missing part, which was published in 1972. The publication resulted in the discovery of the fifth partbook, which had never left England but had survived in the catholic community. It had been left to Oscott College in 1883 by one Francis Amherst, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Northampton. Professor Slim made transcriptions of the missing lines and published them in the magazine Early Music in 1978. The five partbooks are still lodged in separate libraries, but the music is widely available. This recording is the first ever to unite all 30 madrigals in one performance."