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Willaert: Musica Nova, Petrarca Madrigals

Notes & Reviews:

For many years, an aura of secrecy surrounded these works of Flemish composer Adrian Willaert (ca. 1490-1562) because they could only be heard in the hidden circles of a few initiates. It was not until 1559 that Alfonso II d'Este had the collection Musica Nova printed in Venice, thus bestowing the world with music that remains unique till this day. Singer Pur - twice the Echo Klassik award-winning vocal ensemble - has an extraordinary stylistic range, from Renaissance to 20th Century works, and from avant-garde to jazz.

"The nearly overarching interest in chromaticism among Italian composers in the late renaissance can be traced to Willeart's door. Nevertheless, toss a dart into a crowd of music scholars and chances are you won't manage to hit one that has much of an opinion about Adrian Willeart's work or his music -- it is seldom recorded and CDs devoted to Willeart alone are rare. On their own, these aspects make Oehms Classics' Adrian Willaert: Musica Nova -- featuring the talents of expert vocal ensemble Singer Pur -- special, valuable and significant for purposes of study and filling a major hole in the renaissance repertoire. But beyond that, it is a fine listening experience as well." -All Music Guide

”I hope this is the beginning of a new interest in the composer. Only in 1967, 1970 and 1975 did we see the first three full LPs of his music recorded. The anniversary of his death was completely overlooked in 1962, but perhaps it will be noticed a couple of years from now. This set, sung with such sensitivity and insight, is a worthy foreshadowing of the anniversary. I hope the motets will follow from the same source. This is highly recommended.”


Old school madrigals
The Flemish composer Adrian Willaert deserves wider recognition. A student of Jean Mouton, he made his name as a singer in the service of Cardinal Ippolito I díEste and reached the height of his career as maestro di cappella at San Marco in Venice. Willaert was one of the key figures in the ascendency of 16th century Venetian music and his students included such luminaries as Ciprian de Rore and Andrea Gabrieli. Many of Willaertís sacred works were ground breakers in the development of music for double choir, so itís no surprise that what Willaert we have on recordings is mostly sacred music. But wait, thereís more! Willaert also composed chansons and madrigals and itís his collection of Musica Nova madrigals that we have on this excellent recording by Singer Pur. Written around 1540, the Musica Nova collection is comprised of 25 madrigals that are scored for four to seven voices and are set to texts by Petrarch. This is serious music and showcase Willaertís remarkably expressive style. Willaertís writing is subtle and filled with delicate shifts in color and rhythm that draw the listener in. This is dense music and its subtleties require careful attention. They also require careful attention from the singers and thatís what makes these winning performances. Singer Pur, a German group comprised of a soprano, three tenors, baritone, bass (the male singers were all choir boys in the Regensburger Domspatzen) and, for this recording, a guest countertenor sing brilliantly. Iíve become a big fan of the ensemble since I first heard their Factor Orbis (Ars Musici 232226) a terrific program of Renaissance sacred music. This music must be sung with precision and Singer Pur consistently delivers the goods with performances that are highly musical and technically polished. Take these madrigals in small servings because they are rich indeed, but the rewards are enormous. If there is any justice this recording will catapult this ensemble to greater recognition and set them on a path that explores more of the lesser-known madrigalists. For that matter, I hope they also take a shot at Willaertís marvelous motets too.
Submitted on 01/19/10 by Craig Zeichner 
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