> Choral and Song
Il Trionfo di Dori
Works by Croce, Vecchi, Gabrieli, Marenzio, de Monte, Striggio, Anerio, Gastoldi, Porta, Palestrina and others; Gruppo Vocale Arsi & Tesi, Corradini, dir. Texts and translations online. Tactus TC 590003
Ask twenty-nine Italian poets for pastoral texts, commission twenty-nine Italian composers to set them to music for six voices, then publish the results as Il Trionfo di Dori. Doris is triumphant in this 1592 collection, each poem concluding with a laudatory phrase, "Viva la bella Dori," that probably referred to the bride in a then-recent society wedding. The publication was reprinted and copied, and served as the inspiration for The Triumphs of Oriana, Thomas Morley's better-known 1601 publication of twenty-five madrigals by twenty-three composers. Each of those pieces, most likely in honor of Queen Elizabeth, concludes with the phrase, "Thus sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana: / Long live fair Oriana."
While many of the English madrigals are well-known, the Italian originals rest in obscurity, even those of the celebrated vocal composers Marenzio, Vecchi and Gastoldi, and the supreme church contrapuntalist Palestrina. The Italian vocal ensemble Gruppo Vocale Arsi & Tesi presents the world premiere recording of Doris's twenty-nine Triumphs on the Tactus label.
A string of happy, graceful songs where nymphs, shepherds and friends of Venus cavort and sing in sweet accents by shining streams in breezy copses needs much more imagination and vocal variety than this ensemble musters. Smooth but stiff singing, faulty tuning, unmatched vibratos and stodgy tempos quickly wear thin. The lack of rhythmic life — in spite of the group's name — is reminiscent of those opaque 1960s baroque performances where everything chugged along correctly, without variety of attack or contrast in atmosphere.
The group is attentive to dynamics, but doesn't go far enough in shaping phrases or bringing life to individual musical motives. Where is the charm of the text-painting of "L'aria s'empì di vezzosetti Amori / et ogni nebbia sparve" (The air was filled with graceful little Cupids / and every mist disappeared) as the voices disappear into air? Why isn't the rare, minor-key setting of "Sù le fiorite sponde" highlighted? Why is every piece the same tempo? Why doesn't a livelier group record these pieces now?
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