Laura Peperara and the Concerto delle Dame: Modena, last week in October 1568; Mantua, second week in March 1580: two crucial dates in the history of the Concerto delle Dame principalissime of Margherita Gonzaga, Duchess of Ferrara, and one of the «rarest marvels» at the court of Alfonso II. The Madrigals: The first section of this recording evokes the arrival of Laura Peperara in Ferrara. To her the poetess Orsina Cavalletta addresses the madrigal Da l’odorate spoglie, in which the singer is invited to remove her perfumed gloves, take up her harp and sing the madrigal by Wert, Cara la vita mia (from his First Book of Madrigals à 5, 1558). The text was immediately set to music by Luzzaschi (in his Third Book of Madrigals à 5, 1582) and by Lodovico Agostini, who also set the anonymous text Poi che del vostro canto on the same subject (in his Nuovo Echo à 5, 1583). Wert’s madrigal is followed by a version in tablature with diminutions, play by Silvia Rambaldi on the harpsichord. The second section presents a selection of Madrigali per cantare e sonare by Luzzaschi (not published until 1601 but composed already in the early 1580s), featuring the embellished solo singing for which the Dame were famous. These pieces include the works for solo voice, Aura soave di segreti accenti, Ch’io non t’ami cor mio and O primavera gioventù de l’anno, all on texts by Guarini; and for two voices, Stral pungente d’Amore (a reduction, probably by Guarini of a madrigal by Giulio Solico) and Cor mio deh non languire (by Guarini). The Toccata by Luzzaschi, published in Il Transilvano by Girolamo Diruta (1593), which constitutes one of the few examples of his instrumental output, shows an obvious affinity with his madrigals. The section ends with the pathos-laden Deh vieni ormai cor mio, on a text possibly by Ridolfo Arlotti. The final section heard here features works from the First Book of Madrigals à 5 by Paolo Virchi (1584): Non fonte o fiume od aura, on the beautiful text by Tasso, and the anonymous verses Aura che dolce spira and Se ’l sol guardo e le stelle; as well as other madrigals by Lodovico Agostini from his Third Book à 6 (1582): Mentre l’argute sue dolci parole, dedicated to Anna Guarini, Quel canto oimè rapisce l’alma e ’l core, also about the singer, and Cantan gli augei contenti, dedicated to Laura.