COMPOSERS: Claudio Monteverdi; Girolamo Frescobaldi
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi • Frescobaldi
WORKS: Monteverdi: Il pianto della Madonna; Frescobaldi: Toccata for organ
PERFORMER: La Compagnia del Madrigale
CATALOGUE NO: Glossa GCD 922805
We are so used to focusing on Monteverdi’s sensual secular madrigals and operas that we tend to forget that he had connections with Milan, the most devout centre of the Counter-Reformation. These pieces are mostly Latin adaptations of his madrigals together with some motets produced respectively by Aquilino Coppini and Giulio Cesare Bianchi, both of whom were associated with that pious city. The adapted madrigals are rarely recorded, though notable versions have appeared by the Consort of Musicke (Musica Oscura, 1993) and Ex Cathedra and Jeffrey Skidmore (Gaudeamus, 1997). What is completely new here (and very effectively sung) is the substitution of a Latin lament for the Virgin applied to the polyphonic version of Arianna’s lament found in Monteverdi’s Sixth Book of Madrigals.
As with other recordings by La Compagnia del Madrigale, we get superb tuning (the harmonies strongly secured by the rock-steady bass voice of Daniele Carnovich) and infinitely nuanced renderings of the texts. Just occasionally there is an edgy, strident moment in the top voices (‘Pianto della Madonna’), and the triple rhythms of ‘Cantate Domino’ could have danced more, but for the most part we get stunning displays of musical understanding outstripping previous recordings in this regard. The sonorities of ‘Stabat virgo Maria’ are beautifully handled, and the singers coax real drama out of ‘Domine, ne in furore’ with its references to the anger and vexations of God. A delightful contrast is provided by Frescobaldi’s instrumental toccatas, very tastefully performed by Luca Guglielmi (organ) and Marta Graziolino (harp).