Monteverdi: Scherzi musicali; Canzonette a tre voci

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: Scherzi musicali
WORKS: Scherzi musicali; Canzonette a tre voci
PERFORMER: María Cristina Kiehr (soprano), Stephan MacLeod (bass-baritone); Concerto Soave/Jean-Marc Aymes
CATALOGUE NO: HMC 901855
As their name suggests, Monteverdi’s Scherzi musicali are ‘musical amusements’ or, literally, ‘jests’ in a predominantly lighter vein than his better-known madrigals. Many are inspired by dance music, some are sprightly, strophic canzonettas, others – such as ‘Eri già tutta mia’ and ‘Quando sperai’ – moving in their distilled simplicity. This sound world is second nature to soprano Maria Cristina Kiehr, who has specialised in Baroque performance for more than 20 years now. No doubt her ethereal, vibrato-less sound is close to Monteverdi’s ideal – a singer with a ‘clear, firm voice’ who avoids ‘ornamentation, warbling or trills’.

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Kiehr’s collaboration with Jean-Marc Aymes and Concerto Soave has already produced some winning recordings and here again the results are delightful. They are joined by bass-baritone Stephan MacLeod, whose plummy, bell-like voice is a fine complement to Kiehr’s steely soprano. Far from sounding like soloists with a backing group, both singers enjoy a close interaction with the instrumentalists who, in turn, play with terrific caprice and élan. My only caveat about the disc is that the recorded sound is overly resonant and so lacks focus – such accomplished musicianship doesn’t need added gloss. Kate Bolton