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
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 0730
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’.

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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