Monteverdi: Heaven and Earth
This is the fourth recording issued on the new Vivat label, and Robert King has selected for it some of the finest pieces in Monteverdi’s output. We have extracts from his operas, declarations of heartrending love by assorted shepherds and shepherdesses, superb duets (mostly from Book 7 of his madrigals) and, on the final track, the ghostly ‘night music’ of ‘Hor che’l ciel’ from Book 8.
The star item in the opera selections is the aria ‘Possente spirto’, from L’Orfeo, sung by Charles Daniels. He is vocally clear and magically acrobatic in the melodic cascades, though his pace is a little more staid than in his recent version for Andrew Parrott’s recording of the whole opera (on Avie). Sarah Connolly’s rendering of Poppea’s farewell to Rome (‘A Dio, Roma’) is a revelation, powerful and moving. Among the duets Carolyn Sampson and Rebecca Outram give us a suitably fresh ‘Chiome d’oro’, and ‘Zefiro torna’ with Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist must be the fastest recording ever, though the bass instruments are slightly overpowering here. This strong, confident group of singers conveys well the anguish in the five-voiced madrigals (‘Cruda Amarilli’) but not always the finer shades of regret and sensuality (‘A Dio, Florida bella’). These famous works have attracted many recordings; if these versions do not quite match ‘world beater’ performances such as the ecstatic Kirkby/Tubb ‘Chiome d’oro’ (on Alto) or the bravura of the Partridge/Rogers ‘Zefiro torna’ (on Archiv), their consistent musicality provides an impressive introduction to Monteverdi’s art.