NARCISSO SPECULANDO

Review by: ClassicsToday

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Flutist Pedro Memelsdorff’s Mala Punica (“Pomegranates”) ensemble explores interesting if somewhat rarefied territory: Italian music of the Trecento (13th century) and the Ars Subtilior (a.k.a. Mannerist) period of the late 14th century. For its first Harmonia Mundi recording the group focuses on the music of the Most Reverend Don Paolo di Marco (Paolo da Firenze), an abbot, diplomat, tenorista, and composer who lived from 1390-1425. His compositions are quite lovely and subtly colored, as evidenced by the eight secular madrigals performed here.

These songs, which represent about 15 percent of his extant work, all feature broadly sweeping melodies, allegorical texts, and very florid ornamentation. As elegant as these madrigals are, the performances are equally graceful. Mala Punica’s forces include four singers (sopranos Tina Aagaard and Elisa Franzetti, countertenor Alessandro Carmignani, and tenor Gianluca Ferrarini), and their clarion-clear voices blend magnificently with the accompanying winds and brass. There are a few moments on the recording when the two sides mix so seamlessly that at first hearing it’s surprisingly hard to distinguish instrument-produced sound versus that of the human voices.

Paolo’s madrigals are interspersed with hearty istampita dance instrumentals. One of these, titled Un c’osa, has a curious instrumentation of organ, chitarrino, flute, and bells, the last of which would sound as at home in a Cowell or Partch work as they do here. It’s a beautiful recording of underheard music. The only potential drawback is the too-broad sound; sharper articulation of the voices would have been welcome.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: NARCISSO SPECULANDO
Reference Recording: none

Madrigals by Don Paolo da Firenze -


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