Monteverdi: Selected items from madrigal books 4, 5, 7 and 8, and from Orfeo.

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Chandos
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: Selected items from madrigal books 4, 5, 7 and 8, and from Orfeo.
PERFORMER: I Fagiolini/Robert Hollingworth
Most recent recordings of Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigals have tended to be literally ‘by the book’ – that is, complete recordings of single printed collections. Here we have a different approach which not only attempts to display the variety of Monteverdi’s word setting (in a wide selection of solos, duets, dances and ensemble works), but also to situate expression more meaningfully between the ‘pallidly underplayed’ and the ‘overwrought yet lifeless’.


The result is undoubtedly an engaging and effective concert on disc that has gained much from I Fagiolini’s recent dramatised performances of the Fourth Book of Madrigals (soon to be issued on DVD). Here, works such as ‘Anima mia’ and ‘Ahi come a un vago’ get the full treatment of passion and dissonance – or even, in the latter case, somewhat overfull since the singers (unlike Monteverdi) decide to add a dissonance to the final chord. Also, in ‘Luci serena’ it does seems perverse to add a searing clash on the word ‘serena’ (serene). The solo singing is generally good with a stylish Nicholas Mulroy in ‘Tempo la cetra’, and a clear if safe account of the Prologue from Orfeo from Clare Wilkinson (with minimal ornamentation). The instrumental playing is always good and imaginative. Anthony Pryer