"I doubt anyone who had never heard Favella Lyrica could imagine what they do, or how well they do it: We've never heard anything quite like the duet singing of Pamela Murray and Pamela Dellal." 



Sweet Torment


The music for two voices from the dawn of the Italian Baroque period is some of the richest, most passionate, and most ambitious material ever written for the human voice. It combines the kaleidoscopic penetration of the Mannerist madrigal, the emotional honesty of the early operatic monody, and the brilliant coloratura and sprezzatura of the instrumental works that sprang up so fruitfully during this period. Our program features music by the three greatest of the Italian duet composers: Claudio Monteverdi, Luzzasco Luzzaschi and Sigismondo D'India. Monteverdi's duets display clear links to his brilliant operatic writing. The vast majority of Monteverdi's chamber duets come from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, published in 1619. The music written by Luzzaschi for the court singers of the Duke of Ferrara, known throughout Italy as the "Three Ladies of Ferrara", had a great influence on the composition of music for small ensembles of solo voices during the 17th century. The publication of the Concerte delle Dame in 1601 showed clear links to the madrigal style of the late 16th century, at which Luzzaschi excelled, but also broke new ground in the use of written-out virtuosic ornamentation and the new emphasis on the expressive power of the solo voice, both elements of which were derived from the skill of these brilliant singers. D'India is particularly known for his expressive solo pieces, but his highly individual style is apparent in these three distinctive duets. The use of written-out ornamentation that appeared in Luzzaschi's work is beautifully integrated into the structure of D'India's music.

Perchè fuggi treats a violent subject, indecent assault, and turns the tables on the assaulter. The dominant character of the music is the urgency both of the pursuer and of the pursued. A triple-meter section briefly slows the pace before the chase is resumed. Deh, vieni ormai illustrates the subtle intermingling of the older and newer approaches, with the dying day painted in the dark low ranges of the voices, and the free ornamentation on the words "beata voce [blessed voice]" heralding the virtuosity of the solo singer. The ultimate vision of the disk of the sun slipping below the horizon is one of the very great moments in all of this repertoire. La mia Filli crudel is an example of another blend of old and new, a light dance form transformed by searing suspensions and harmonic twists. The playful yet cruel poem, with both lovers causing each other more pain than mere teasing would do, is perfectly reflected by this composition. D'India wrote many pieces on this model.

The monody Piangono al pianger mio distinctively combines the free, expressive rhythms of the classic Italian lament with the steady bass line of a standard Renaissance tune, the Romanesca. The insistent bass sets up interesting tensions with the more fluid, improvisational vocal line for a plaintive effect.

Stral pungente d'Amore has a steely quality that matches the strong images of the text. The piercing arrow of Love is matched by the impenetrable breast of the beloved, and the only softness is provided by an improvisatory melisma on the words "bel petto [lovely breast]." The free, fantasy-like O come sei gentile provides a contrast. The composer portrays the singing of both the little bird and the rejected lover in varied ways: the bird is rigid, almost mechanical, and emotionless, while the lover is swept away on a wave of uncontrollable passion. Dove potrò mai gir is written in a form quite different from the other music presented here: two free lines over a full-fledged melody in the bass. The ground in this case is the famous theme called "Aria di Ruggiero."

La Gelosia is a striking example of Luigi Rossi's use of form to illuminate the text. Ostensibly a strophic song, the verses alternate between passages of free, melismatic expression and metrical sections in duple and triple. This schizophrenic structure is a perfect reflection of the psychological state of the victim of jealousy - fighting off his suspicions only to discover them still present. Of particular note is the original ornamentation in the second verse, and the punning emphasis on the gel [ice] of gelosia versus the fire of true love.

Martino Pesenti (c. 1600 - 1648) was a Venetian composer and harpsichordist who was blind from birth. With a relatively small output, he never achieved much notoriety in his day or in ours. Ardo displays one of Pesenti's hallmarks, the use of new metrical forms. Here an intense, almost clinical illumination of the violent images of the poem in the opening section is characterized by close canons at the unison and a terrific sense for the inherent rhythm of the words. This gives way to a hypnotic passacaglia that outdoes in intensity all the tortured devices that preceded it.

D'India's Langue al vostro languir combines nuanced etching of mood and virtuosic display to serve unusual contrasts between fevered and languid passion. His harmonic daring during the passage "e quel che vi scolora [that which pales you]" is an uncanny musical analogue to the visual image. Zefiro torna, set to an infectious chaconne bass, is a captivating depiction of nature. The breathless list of the beauties of spring tumble out one over another, perfectly reflected by the relentless ostinato. So brilliantly set is this tableau that the listener could scarcely miss the billowing waves, echoing caves, and even a sunrise! And when, without warning, the poet plunges into despair, only to return to his euphoric singing, the melodrama becomes irresistible.


Claudio Monteverdi

Perchè fuggi
O come sei gentile

Sigismondo D'India

Piangono al pianger mio
Langue al vostro languir
La mia Filli crudel

Heinrich Schütz

O lieber Herre Gott
Ihr Heiligen, lobsinget dem Herren
Habe deine Lust an dem Herren

Barbara Strozzi

Sonetto Proemio dell' Opera (Mercè di voi)

Luigi Rossi

La Gelosia

Sigismondo D'India

Dove potrò mai gir

Michelangelo Rossi

Toccata VII

from Toccate e Correnti (2nd Ed. 1657)

Claudio Monteverdi

Zefiro torna