Madrigali a due voci

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Carissimi,Gagliano,Merula,Monteverdi,Rogniono,Sances,Strozzi & Valentini
LABELS: Zig Zag
WORKS: Madrigals for two voices by Carissimi, Gagliano, Merula, Monteverdi, Rogniono, Sances, Strozzi & Valentini
PERFORMER: Agnès Mellon (soprano), Dominique Visse (countertenor); Ensemble Barcarole
CATALOGUE NO: ZZT 101001

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Two veterans of the early music scene – Agnès Mellon, former femme fatale of Les Arts Florissants – and Dominique Visse, erstwhile pupil of Alfred Deller and founder of the Ensemble Clément Janequin – team up here to plunder the trove of Italian madrigals by Monteverdi, Carissimi, Barbara Strozzi and some of their less famous contemporaries, including Tarquinio Merula and Giovanni Sances.

Their programme of duets, dialogues and monologues explores love’s intemperance, through ecstatic, dancing rhythms and foot-tapping ground-basses, like the ciaconna underscoring Sances’s ‘Lagrimosa beltà’ and Merula’s ‘Su la cetra amorosa’, or haunting laments in which the voices snake round a relentless descending tetrachord – the Baroque leitmotif  for lost love.

Mellon and Visse here make a thrilling duo: her silky soprano the perfect complement to his plangent countertenor. The two argue and tease with the intimacy of young lovers; converse and banter with the easy familiarity of old friends, producing performances that combine playfulness, passion, youthful spirit and mature style.

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The instrumentalists of Ensemble Barcarole deserve high praise for their idiomatic, audaciously jazzy continuo realisations and solo numbers that are by turns poetic, by turns virtuosic. The recording, too, is well judged: the two voices perfectly balanced within the instrumental ensemble. All in all, a real box of delights. Kate Bolton