(i) Monteverdi, Strozzi; (ii) Monteverdi

COMPOSERS: (i) Monteverdi,Strozzi; (ii) Monteverdi
LABELS: (i) Naive,(ii) Zig Zag
ALBUM TITLE: (i) Era la Notte, (ii) Monteverdi
WORKS: Lamento d’Arianna; Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda; Strozzi: Lamento; Giramo: Lamento della pazza
PERFORMER: (i) Anna Caterina Antonacci (soprano); Modo Antiquo/Federico Maria Sardelli(ii) Guillemette Laurens (mezzo-soprano), Jan Van Elsacker, Hervé Lamy (tenor); Akadêmia/Françoise Lasserre
CATALOGUE NO: (i) V 5050, (ii) ZZT 051003
Anna Caterina Antonacci’s disc Era la notte (‘It was the night’) is both a musical and a psychological exploration of the dark themes of loss, madness and death. Two masterpieces by Monteverdi – the Lamento d’Arianna and Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda – frame laments by his contemporaries Barbara Strozzi and Pietro Antonio Giramo. The programme is something of showcase for Antonacci, flaunting the impressive range of her sensuous, dark-hued voice and, above all, her compelling dramatic presence. Her account of Combattimento is a virtuoso tour de force, in which she sings all three vocal parts herself, combining passion and conviction without ever becoming histrionic. Above all, the richness and subtleties of Tasso’s poetry are enhanced and nuanced in this mesmerising and highly rhetorical reading. The instrumental ensemble Modo Antiquo provides stylish support, underscoring the power of this work without ever overstating it. The other pieces on the disc – a ‘mad song’ and a highly-charged love song – provide little relief from the musical intensity.

Advertisement

Françoise Lasserre’s ensemble Akadêmia presents a very different account of Il Combattimento. If the chiaroscuro of Antonacci’s account could be likened to a black and white film, then Akadêmia’s performance is in glorious technicolor. Richly ‘orchestrated’ with a panoply of instruments, their Combattimento is a miniature opera, with sharply defined characters, vividly articulated instrumental sections and strident battle music. Jan Van Elsacker’s narration is supple and eloquent, and he is emotively choked to despair when recounting the denouement of this tragic tale. While Antonacci steals the limelight in her Combattimento, Akadêmia’s is far more of a team effort, with every member of the ensemble contributing to the dramatic impact. Here, Monteverdi’s ‘contrary passions’, of war, supplication and death, are thrown into high relief.

Advertisement

There are visceral performances, too, of ‘Hor che ’l ciel e la terra’, the ensemble drawing out the poetical and musical antitheses of this unforgettable setting to powerful effect; of ‘Altri canti d’amor’, and of ‘Interrotte speranze’, where the ‘fierce torments’ and infernal intensity and of Guarini’s poem are ominously accented. In the haunting Lamento della Ninfa, Guillemette Laurens heightens Monteverdi’s ‘agitated’ (concitato) style rather than the ‘languid’ (molle), with a rapid vibrato and somewhat constricted tone. It’s not a beautiful sound, but it conveys the nervous angst of a desperate women. Kate Bolton