Brian | Roskilde Denmark | 08/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Not much is known of the details of the life of Giovanni Valentini( 1582-1649), but problably born in Venice, he made himself a transalpine career, in the beginning working at the court of archduke Ferdinand in Graz, and when Ferdinand in 1619 was elected Holy Roman emperor, Valentini soon became Kapelmeister at the imperial court in Vienna, one of the most coveted positions for a musician to hold in the Western world.
The music presented here shows Valentini to be among the very best of early Italian baroque composers; perhaps strong words, but to judge from this music, Valentini must be regarded an equal of Monteverdi.
The performance is made by two sopranos, occasional violins and BC with (often within the same piece) alternating organ and harpsichord, cello and theorbe. The works recorded here are made up of secular madrigals (about the pains of love...) and motets (whose contents reflect the intense Marian cult practised by Ferdinand and the members of his court). All in all, this is deep, reflective music, never superficial, but with surprising moments of great originality and moments of breathtaking beauty. Valentini does not just sound as a second Monteverdi, he has to a great extent his own musical language, a brilliant one indeed.
The sopranos sing with a generous, but perfectly appropriate use of vibrato, and they succesfully communicate the emotional intensity of this music (it also seems to me that the microphones are placed quite close to the singers, also contributing to the immediacy and effect of this performance).
This is some of the best early baroque soprano singing, I've ever heard!
If you're interested in getting to know some of Valentini's large-scale church music (and after having listened to this recording, you problably are), I can recommend a recent recording (also five stars to that!) by Roland Wilson/ Musica Fiata/ La capella ducale on Sony, named "O dulcis Amor Jesu". Apparently, this recording is not available here at Amazon.com, but try Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.de or cpo.de using the search term "Priuli" (the other composer on this disc, a senior colleague of Valentini's) or "Giovanni Valentini"."