Viva la bella Dori—‘Long live beautiful Doris’. So ends each of the madrigals by twenty-nine different poets and composers that collectively form Il Trionfo di Dori. The line evokes the name of the Greek goddess, daughter of Oceanus and mother of the fifty or more Nereids, personifications of the waves of the sea. Dori stands here for the wife of Leonardo Sanudo, the Venetian nobleman who commissioned the madrigal book’s words and music around the time of their marriage in 1577. Il Trionfo di Dori was printed in Venice in 1592 and proved an instant hit, inspiring publishers and composers north of the Alps to imitate the enterprise.
The King’s Singers bring this great monument of Italian music history to striding life. Their irresistible interpretations arise from the richness of the collection’s verse, the words and expressive energy of which register here with ringing clarity. It matters not whether a madrigal is by one of the big beasts of the High Renaissance jungle, Marenzio and Palestrina among them, or by Sanudo’s privileged chums: each is treated with the highest care and delivered with joyful spontaneity. The vocal sextet’s unflagging enthusiasm and deep understanding of the music, both impossible to fake, reinforce the vitality of this outstanding release.