Monteverdi: Quinto Libro dei Madrigali

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Glossa
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: Quinto Libro dei Madrigali
PERFORMER: La Venexiana/Claudio Cavina (countertenor)
CATALOGUE NO: Glossa GCD 920925
This recording is one of the best in La Venexiana’s Monteverdi series – musically sustained with a convincing sense of ensemble and pace, and crisply recorded. The competition though is fierce, especially from Rooley and The Consort of Musicke (1984, now available on the Double Decca label), and Alessandrini and the Concerto Italiano (1996, on Opus 111).

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Many of these pieces present extracts from Guarini’s play Il pastor fido, where characters ‘speak’ their angonies of love through the medium of polyphony. In ‘Ecco Silvio’ for example, only Alessandrini brings out the voice of a real human being (Dorinda) uttering her thoughts

with passion; Rooley presents the piece as a beautiful description

of a reported event, and Venexiana draw our attention to their own performing voices rather than the music because they jar just a little

and drop pitch towards the end.

The later items are full of exposed solo and duet textures. Rooley is

best here: in ‘Troppo ben’, for example, he has superbly poised vocal lines that make everything clear; Alessandrini makes the most dramatic sense of the text with

a deliciously sulky rendering

of the word ‘stolto’ (foolish); and

Venexiana start well but stumble a little in the ‘Fuggilo’ section.

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Their sopranos are good, but since drama is the essence of this collection it is Alessandrini who takes the prize.