30 April 2012

Sigismondo d'India: Del Cielo d'Amor

Easy CD-DA | FLAC tracks | Covers | 266 Mb
Date CD: 2001 | Carpe Diem | 68:08

All that is known about Sigismondo d'India's early life comes from what he said himself on the title pages of his publications: He claimed that he was of a noble Sicilian family and that he had received his training from "learned men of music." He was probably in Florence around 1600, judging from the dedication of his 1621 "Le musichi e balli" to the Queen Mother of France, Maria de' Medici. He published a book of madrigals in 1606, and its introduction suggests he was in Mantua. If so, he could have met Claudio Monteverdi there.

He visited Florence in 1608, earning the admiration of Vittoria Archilei and Caccini. Cardinal Farnese praised his songs when he visited Rome somewhat later, and in 1610, he was in Parma and Piacenza, where he supplied some festival music.

He settled down in Turin in 1611 when he became director of chamber music at the court of Carlo Emanuele I, Duke of Savoy. Most of his music dates from the period of his employment there. This was a position requiring the production of secular music, both instrumental and vocal. But it is most likely that his predilection was not for religious music. He produced music in the new style that deemphasized polyphony, which found great favor with the Duke.

Malicious courtiers undercut him with vicious gossip, and he left the court in 1623. From October 1623 to April 1624, he was attached to the Este court in Modena on a temporary basis. Moving on to Rome, he took a position with Cardinal Maurizio, who was a son of the Duke of Savoy, and shared his father's tastes. He produced more religious music at this time, including a famous Missa Domine, clamavi ad te, written for Pope Urban VIII. He also composed an opera with a religious theme, Sant' Eustachio. In the same year, 1625, d'India took a permanent position in the court of the Este family and directed a funeral mass for Isabella d'Este (it is not known if this was one written by him or someone else).

The historical record grows thin at this point: in 1627, he was competing for a commission for a marriage between the Farnese and Medici houses, but lost to Monteverdi. He was also appointed to the court of Maximilian I of Bavaria. It is not known whether he ever made it there, or exactly when, where, or how he died. A document dated April 19, 1629, is addressed to the heirs of Sig. d'India, establishing that he died some time earlier.

Sigismondo d'India is regarded as the most important early Italian composer of secular vocal music in the new monodic style, with the exception of Claudio Monteverdi. He also wrote very good polyphonic motets and madrigals. His music is marked by strong, dramatic emotional content and bold, original, and personal harmonic progressions. Among the most typical of his subjects are laments by rejected or jilted lovers, their heartbreak expressed in a reliance on chromatic half-steps and strong dissonances that resolve in unusual ways.

..This recording is absolutely excellent; if anything even better than Richter and Anders' very beautiful CD of Petrarch settings reviewed in an earlier issue. D'India's music encompasses a wide range of forms and moods: lively strophic arias and canzonettas, songs over a ground bass, laments, and through-composed 'madrigals' (these particularly show the composer's taste for exotic and expressive surprise key changes) and the rich, clear, flexible voice of Gundula Anders expresses them all most eloquently. Her execution of florid baroque ornaments, including vibrato as an expressive ornament, is virtuosic (a song about the nightingale gives her room to spread her wings on this score), and her intonation is faultless. This is dramatic, passionate, text-led song, with frequent changes of mood and emotional colour, even from one line to the next, and Anders portrays each emotion very sensitively. Highlights from this point of view are her performances of an extraordinary 8-minute long 'lettera amorosa', a passionate love letter in verse set as a recitative, and (even better music I think) a 9-minute long 'Lamento d'Olimpia'. The accompaniments are technically assured and sensitive througout, and what a treat to hear, besides the archlute and gut-strung chitarrone, the sound of a brass-strung chitarrone on 5 of the tracks (including a famous Piccinini chaconna), and the poignant double-stopped chords of a lirone. Sigrun Richter contributes four solos, a prelude by Kapsberger, and two toccatas and a chaconna by Piccinini, all well played with what seems to me just the right degree of internal variety of tempo, and rubato.
An excellent recording of passionate music, by a composer who on a good day could give Monteverdi a run for his money.


1.La Virtú
2.Vaghe faville
3.Da l'onde del mio pianto
4.Preludio Nr. 4
5.Intenerite voi
6.O del cielo d'amor
7.Toccata Nr. 11
8.Lagrimnate, occhi miei
9.Lettera amorosa del Cavalier Marini
10.Pallidetta qual viola
11.Merce! giro oiangendo
12.Piangono al pianger mio
13.O che gradita
15.Lamento di Olimpia
16.Tu mi lasci, o cruda, o bella
17.Toccata Nr. 4
18.Canto di rosignolo
19.E pur tu parti
20.Sfere fermate

Gundula Anders, Sopran
Hille Perl, Viola da gamba, Lirone
Sigrun Richter, Arciliuto, Chitarrone

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for your post!
I like your taste and do enjoy it very much.