ABOUT THE PROJECT
In August 2015, Les Canards Chantants joined forces with critically-acclaimed Baroque string band ACRONYM to make the world-premier recording of the unusual and enticing second book of Italian madrigals by Giovanni Valentini (c1582–1649). This recording will be released in summer 2016, exactly four hundred years after the music was first published.
Valentini’s Secondo libro is luxuriously scored for up to six solo voices, continuo, and in the final five madrigals in the book, solo string instruments, making it the first published collection of madrigals to combine solo instruments with solo voices. The collection is equally interesting for its rich chromaticism, and highly virtuosic vocal writing that stretches each voice to the limit of range and agility. Valentini served at the Graz court Kapellmeister to Archduke Ferdinand of Inner Austria, where he had access to a “clavicymbalum universale” – an enharmonic harpsichord boasting 77 keys for its four octave keyboard (compare this to the 44 keys required for the same span on a modern equal-tempered piano). This instrument may partly explain Valentini’s reputation as progressive and avant garde; many of the book’s continuo madrigals are highly experimental, and their odd melodic structure and voice leading point to a keyboardist’s chromatic daring. At the same time these experiments frequently blossom into mature beauty, with passages of smooth, quasi stile antico counterpoint mellowing and heightening moments of incredibly modern harmony.