COMPOSERS: Caccini etc,Marini,Merula d,Monteverdi,Vitali
WORKS: Italian Baroque Songs by Monteverdi, Merula, d’India, Marini, Vitali, Caccini etc
PERFORMER: Magdalena Koˇzená (mezzo-soprano); Private Musicke/Pierre Pitzl
CATALOGUE NO: DG 477 8764
This trove of musical ‘love letters’ by Monteverdi and his less lionised contemporaries includes impassioned arias, tragic laments, catchy song and canzonette, all exploring the power of love in its various guises – erotic, spiritual, maternal. Italian vocal numbers are interspersed with instrumental improvisations, hypnotic ground basses, and exotically coloured Spanish and Latino dances – nascent flamenco.
Czech mezzo Magdalena Kožená has long been attracted to this appealing repertoire, the 17th-century’s answer to pop music, with its beguiling melodies and percussive rhythms, and her commitment to it shines through in these stylish, richly nuanced accounts.
She soars the heights and plumbs the depths with fitting ardour, and if at times she pushes the voice rather more than is necessary for this most intimate sound-world, and occasionally draws on expressive gestures more appropriate for Verdi than Vitali, it is hard not to be swept away by such intensely felt and highly dramatic readings.
She brings poetry and pathos to Merula’s Canzonetta spirituale sopra alla nanna, at once a lullaby and a fateful premonition of the Crucifixion sung by the Virgin to the Christ child, chilling in its combination of elaborate melody with a dissonant, relentlessly rocking chord progression. Pierre Pitzl – a veritable Jimi Hendrix of the Baroque guitar – and his crack instrumental ensemble enrich the spare simplicity of the written scores with endlessly varied and inventive realisations on bowed and plucked strings.
These are vibrant, virtuoso performances, never slacking in their spontaneity and energy. With its plush recorded sound, this is a disc to wallow in. Kate Bolton