Monteverdi: Secondo libro di madrigali: Non se leveva; Dolcemente dormiva

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Glossa
WORKS: Secondo libro di madrigali: Non se leveva; Dolcemente dormiva
PERFORMER: Le Venexiana/Claudio Cavina
These two books of madrigals by Monteverdi were published 30 years apart and make very different demands on the performers. The Book 2 items are all for five voices with traditional counterpoint; the Book 7 collection is much larger and has one or two old-style madrigals together with duets, arias, light canzonets and even a ballet. It is a credit to La Venexiana that it produces pleasing and convincing music across this range. In Book 2, for example, the musicians display terrific dynamic and expressive colouring in ‘Non se leveva’, and their quietly cohesive mood of tenderness in ‘Dolcemente dormiva’ is ravishing. As for Book 7, they make glorious sense of some rather tricky works such as the sectionalised ‘Al lume dell stella’, and the potentially dull ‘Se pur destina’. Good recordings, then, but are they the best available? In fact, Book 7 is a reissue (first reviewed August 1999) and still has no serious rival as a recording of the collection as a whole. Raymond Leppard’s 1975 version (reissued on Philips) is much worse, and Alan Curtis’s excellent ‘Monteverdi: Complete Duets’ (Virgin) covers fewer than half of the pieces. The Book 2 recording, though, performs the pieces in the wrong order, is slow-paced and has is three strong rivals. Anthony Rooley’s attempt (Virgin) is neater musically but perhaps a little coy, and Marco Longhini (Naxos) adds unnecessary instruments and is untidy. Rinaldo Alessandrini’s version (Opus 111), however, shows immense understanding of the relation between text and music, and takes the prize. Anthony Pryer