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Uploaded on Jul 22, 2011
O come sei gentile, caro augellino, madrigal for 2 sopranos (from Book 7), SV 120 (ca. 1619)
Les Arts Florissants William Christie
This is one of the most consistently florid and melismatic pieces in Book 7, written in a completely unchained style, the lines so free of harmonic functionality that they approach pure ornament -- yet every note is from Monteverdi's own hand. He makes a thorough investigation of different duet textures -- florid ribbons and confetti melisma in both voices, unison phrases, homophony, imitation, etc., either contrasting these for vividness of effect or blending them seamlessly together. The music never settles into one texture for very long, and the sense of variety is stunning, considering the limited instrumental forces.
Neither of the voices has much rest from absolutely virtuosic demands. It feels like a friendly competition, and it may have been intended as a showcase piece for the talents of two particular singers. In that capacity, because it draws so much attention to the act of singing itself, the piece clearly "frames" the singers as singers and frames them as women in a way recalling tenderly erotic renaissance nudes. One can easily imagine the poets scrambling to praise and compare the virtues of the sopranos. When it ends, far too soon, the whole has been so borderless it fades seamlessly off into silence and the heart, so moved, is left with scars of untraceable origin. [Allmusic.com]