Kate Macoboy: Michelangelo’s Madrigal
Though a standard combination in Italy at the beginning of the 16th century, voice and lute are not heard today as often as one might wish. Perhaps that’s to do with the repertoire’s strong links with improvisation, or it may reflect reluctance to tackle the Italian composers who worked alongside their more widely disseminated Franco-Flemish colleagues (both these points are mentioned in the notes to this recital). Be that as it may, the genre’s most notable protagonists are represented here, regularly interspersed with short lute preludes and fantasias. It’s a well-constructed programme, albeit a little on the short side. The link with Michelangelo, though present, is slender – just the one poetic text, ‘Come harò donque ardire’, set by Tromboncino. Does such lovely music require a sales pitch?
The conception is so sympathetic that one can’t help but wish the results were more satisfying. The key element to delivering these pieces successfully is conveyed in the contemporary term sprezzatura, denoting an effortless virtuosity delivered with studied casualness. But the lute selections, though clean, seem unnecessarily cautious and lacking in the improvisatory feel that is surely essential. Kate Macoboy’s timbre is most attractive but intonation is often imprecise, and phrasing and breath placement counterintuitive. A slightly faster tempo might have helped smooth over such details. The acoustic, relatively dry and very well captured, makes for a present and intimate recorded sound but it also means that there’s nowhere to hide. This music’s special quality is to treat melancholy with a light heart, yet without sounding twee. That this comes across despite the recital’s shortcomings (or if you prefer, my reservations) may be reason enough to overlook them.