Monteverdi: Madrigals, Book 6

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: NAIVE
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: Madrigals, Book 6
PERFORMER: Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Allessandrini
CATALOGUE NO: OP 30423
Monteverdi’s Sixth Book (1614) is a challenging collection containing laments, light pastoral items, intricate polyphonic masterpieces and semi-theatrical soloistic works. Thirteen years ago Alessandrini recorded it on the Arcana label, and now he is having another go. His original disc was in competition with Anthony Rooley’s version on Virgin Classics, which is still available. Of course there are other recordings – such as Monterosso’s account on Capriole, and La Venexiana’s nice attempt on Glossa (reviewed in the Proms issue last year) – but the competition essentially remains where it has always been, with Rooley.

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Three things stand out about Alessandrini’s version. First, his extraordinary feel for the words, which allows him to uncover some magical rhetorical effects in Arianna’s lament and also in the Sestina. Second, his revised edition which gives him access to newly revealed dissonances in works such as ‘Batto qui pianse’ and some clarified instrumental accompaniments. And third, his generally upbeat tempos (his is the fastest available recording) which lend a marvellous freshness to ‘Qui rise’ and other tracks. His downfall is that the standard of tuning is not always what Monteverdi’s harmonic labyrinths require – Alessandrini’s canto soprano is frequently a wince or two sharp. In Rooley’s recording the music itself is always perfectly in place (though the recorded balance is slightly bass heavy), and he sacrifices only a little of the pace and drama to the Italian group. Both are excellent, but Rooley just takes the prize. Anthony Pryer.