Monteverdi: Zefiro torna; Mentre vaga Angioletta; Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Virgin Veritas
WORKS: Zefiro torna; Mentre vaga Angioletta; Ohimè, dov’è il mio ben
PERFORMER: Il Complesso Barocco/Alan Curtis
CATALOGUE NO: VC 5 45293 2
Has anyone previously hit upon the idea of collecting Monteverdi’s vocal duets into single programmes? The American harpsichordist and director of Il Complesso Barocco, Alan Curtis, has done just that on two CDs. This is the first volume, of which the focal point for many will be Monteverdi’s lyrical and animated setting of Rinuccini’s ‘Zefiro torna’, included in the Scherzi musicali. Curtis’s stylistic sense ensures sustained interest throughout this programme of 16 duets; but a consideration of comparable importance to its success is the declamation of the singers, all of whom, judging by their names and fluent pronunciation, are Italian. The texts contain passionate declarations of, and reflections upon, love, and these artists respond with an ardour and an urgency which enlivens and refreshes both the poetry and its inspired musical settings.

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In much the same way as he has paid attention to the declamatory elements in these duets, Curtis has carefully considered the role and the sound of the continuo. The group is richly textured and varied in colour, featuring at one time or another a cello, triple harp, theorbo, archlute, guitar, organ and harpsichord. All of which reminds us how far we have travelled since those far-off days in the mid-Thirties, when Nadia Boulanger, with exquisite delicacy, recorded some of these pieces with a cello and grand piano. Nicholas Anderson