- Segu'a rinascer l'aura, for 3 voices & continuo
- Donna mentre vi miro, for 3 voices & continuo
- Canzon francese, for harpsichord
- Deh vieni hormai cor mio, for 2 voices & continuo
- O primavera gioventù dell'anno, for voice & continuo
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The Concerti delle Dame, or Concerts of the Ladies, were secret events held by the Duke of Ferrara, using a consort of sopranos at his court. The organizer was the duke's court composer, the melodiously named Luzzasco Luzzaschi, who also composed chromatic madrigals in a language approaching that of Gesualdo. But these works experimented with the declamatory, chordal, highly ornamented style that became known as the seconda pratica. The original manuscripts used in the concerts were lost after the duke's court was absorbed by the Papal States in 1598, but Luzzaschi is thought to have recycled the music in the set of 1601 madrigals heard here. Composed late in the 16th century, they are roughly contemporaneous with the Monteverdi madrigals that experimented with the new style; they are less inventive in merging the style with the existing language than are the madrigals of Monteverdi's middle books, but their sensuous texts of Cupid and pastoral scenes bespoke a whole new way of making music. The ensemble La Venexiana under director Claudio Cavina (better known as a countertenor) manages to capture the spontaneous excitement that must have accompanied this music in its day; the continuo ensemble of viola da gamba, lute, and harpsichord is flexible and lively, and the size of the music, meant for an intimate chamber, feels right. The three sopranos involved make their way through the difficult ornaments all right, but it's a bit hard to imagine them as renowned singers all over Italy, which the original "dame" indeed were. This is nevertheless a useful collection from the time of the dawn of opera, which did not spring into existence full-blown but came from sources like these pieces. The album was originally released in 1992.