Home listening: Amadio Freddi, anyone?

The Gonzaga Band do this late Renaissance composer proud, while Exaudi’s new Gesualdo disc is a stunner

• Little is known about the Italian composer Amadio Freddi (c1580-1634). The Gonzaga Band’s recording of his Vespers (1616) (Resonus), together with detailed liner notes by the ensemble’s director and cornett player, Jamie Savan, may be the most extensive material yet available.

As a boy and young man, Freddi was a professional singer in the basilica of S Antonio in Padua. After working in Treviso, then Vicenza, he returned to Padua to the top job of maestro di cappella. Whether or not he knew Monteverdi’s famous version of the Vespers, Freddi’s music has its own virtues. Less brilliant in impact, it has clear, light textures with unusual voice-instrument combinations. The disc also included short works by some of Freddi’s contemporaries, including Giovanni Gabrieli.

This kind of loving scholarship, combined with excellent performance by the Gonzaga Band’s six singers and three instrumentalists, contributes to our ever-growing picture of music in the late Renaissance and early baroque.

• A prince, a count, a composer, a murderer: Freddi’s contemporary, Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613), is among the most famous cultural figures of the era. The broad outlines of his life are distracting, yet even without the lurid detail (he murdered his wife and her lover in flagrante), he stands out as a radical experimentalist. Where Freddi’s music has a limpid brightness, Gesualdo’s is dark, chromatic, anguished, obsessed not with Marian redemption but with sorrow and death.

The vocal ensemble Exaudi, directed by James Weeks, has selected works from the Fifth and Sixth Books of Madrigali for a superb new disc (Winter & Winter). They sing with impeccable definition and accuracy, letting each dissonance burn and scorch until the ear longs for release.

• In a recent edition of Radio 3’s Early Music Show, Lucie Skeaping introduced another unfamiliar Renaissance composer, the 16th-century Frenchman Claude Le Jeune, a Huguenot who got entangled in the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants. Catch up online.

Contributor

Fiona Maddocks

The GuardianTramp

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