Sunday, February 7, 2010

It is very likely everyone who loves early music has at least some discs in his collection with Italian madrigals. It is a quite popular genre among vocal ensembles which specialize in early music, and this kind of repertoire is also regularly performed on the concert platform. But only a small proportion of what has been written is performed and/or recorded.

The repertoire is huge. In the decades around 1600 large numbers of madrigals were written. I remember Anthony Rooley, about 20 years ago, saying that he could easily record one collection of first-rate Italian madrigals every week for the rest of his life. The fact that many composers of madrigals are forgotten is due to the fact that they have drowned in the sea of what was written in that time.

Recently a website has been launched which is completely devoted to the Italian madrigal, The author, Martin Morell, has announced his website in the Usenet newsgroup It seems first and foremost meant for (amateur) singers who would like to perform madrigals. There is a lot of information about the Italian madrigal, and if one registers it is possible to download scores, midi-files as well as texts and translations, free of charge.
But regular listeners to Italian madrigals could find this site also very useful. Apart from information about the genre there is some specific background information about Il Pastor Fido by Battista Guarini, which was used by so many composers as a source for madrigals. Also useful is a synopsis of the plot of this 'pastoral tragicomedy'.

I am not in the position to assess the reliability of the information which is given on this site, so I leave that to the experts. But from the personal information of the author one may gather that he has spent considerable time in Italy to study the sources.
I recommend anyone with a special interest in Italian madrigals to have a look at this site. I am sure the author will appreciate any useful and constructive comment.

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