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GRAMOPHONE (12/2016)
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Reviewer: Fabrice Fitch

Ten years ago, when I reviewed the first three books of Gesualdo’s madrigals in the recording from the Gesualdo Consort, Amsterdam (CPO, 2/06), I observed that these had not been as well served on disc as the last three. As regards Book 3, at least, that is no longer the case. Since then, Delitiæ Musicæ have recorded it as part of a complete cycle (Naxos, A/11), and now La Compagnia del Madrigale have joined the frame.

Their line-up is essentially the same as that of La Venexiana but without former director Claudio Cavina, and it seems likely that they will complete the cycle begun in their previous incarnation. Thus we have three very contrasted readings: the Gesualdo Consort brighter, Delitiæ Musicæ’s all-male line-up lower and more veiled, and La Compagnia somewhere in between (unlike the other two ensembles, they dispense with countertenors and are a cappella throughout).

La Compagnia don’t follow the published order (there’s no reason why they should), beginning instead with ‘Ancidetemi pur’, one of Book 3’s highlights. With its striking initial gesture this is a riveting opener, and these singers are especially good at such key moments, where the composer takes the lead, as it were; when textures become denser and more contrapuntal, one wonders whether Cavina’s guiding hand might have imparted a shade more purpose. That said, La Compagnia bring out a greater degree of lyricism than their rivals, and many will prefer these readings for that reason alone. My personal preference would go towards Harry van der Kamp’s Dutch ensemble on account of their clearer textures in the mid-range and formal cogency, and a slightly uncomfortable over-exposed sonority (in the photographic sense) that fits Gesualdo’s temper very well. Nonetheless, it’s good to have this work, a turning point in the composer’s output, from an ensemble whose sound has made so much of the running in the recent discography.

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