Frescobaldi Edition Volume 6 - Il primo libro dei Madrigali a cinque voci
Modo Antiquo, Bettina Hoffmann
Volume 6 of this path-breaking series, the first to record every extant work by Girolamo Frescobaldi, focuses on the secular madrigals. These works - he wrote one book, and evidently hoped to write more - are no less innovatory than the keyboard works that so impressed and influenced J.S. Bach. The texts feature the usual parade of lovelord shepherds and sighing maidens. Love unrequited is the keynote, but Frescobaldi's musical response to the expressive affekt is more charming than heart-rending: these are not the passionate and personal declarations of Monteverdi or Gesualdo.
These madrigals were Frescobaldi's first published music, and therefore evidently music of which he felt justifiably proud. Their language is doubtless shaped by his education and service in the northern Italian cities of Ferrara and Mantua, which thanks to the patronage of families such as the famous Gonzagas was a cosmopolitan hotbed of artistic and creative endeavour. Frescobaldi met and became friends with Peter Philips, the noted English composer of madrigals who had settled in the Netherlands, and Philips's delicacy of imagination can be heard in this collection. The nineteen madrigals with which Frescobaldi introduced himself have an admirable clarity of formal design that gives each line its due weight in terms of duration and emotion, and a transparent counterpoint that favours delicacy over density as a stylistic means, homophonic and polyphonic sections being cleverly alternated. It is pleasing to see the respect that Frescobaldi pays to the texts: the words are set to graceful melodic phrases, and never obscured by excessive counterpoint, but interpreted literally with immediate attention to meaning.
Frescobaldi: Il primo libro dei Madrigali a cinque voci