Monteverdi: Motets from the Fourth and Fifth Books of Madrigals

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COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: ASV Gaudeamus
WORKS: Motets from the Fourth and Fifth Books of Madrigals
PERFORMER: Ex Cathedra/Jeffrey Skidmore
CATALOGUE NO: CD GAU 174
Monteverdi’s madrigals were widely admired in his day, but their lascivious texts worried churchmen – so Aquilino Coppini published some of the madrigals with sacred texts. Jeffrey Skidmore presents a selection of these pieces with a large mixed choir and with a preference for overall mood rather than individual word-emphasis. In Pulchrae sunt the block harmonies become rather dreary without the light and shade of momentary meaning to carry the recitation, but in Felle amaro (originally Cruda Amarilli) the performers transform the familiar notes into something entirely new.

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Although we are told that these pieces ‘are recorded here for the first time’, four of them appear on Erotic Madrigals and their Sacred Contrafacta from 1993 (Musica Oscura/The Consort of Musicke) where they are sung one-to-a-part and with greater nuance – especially O Jesu mea vita. Finally, the cover and booklet manage to attribute all the madrigals from Monteverdi’s Fourth Book to his Fifth, and vice versa. But the disc certainly shows how this glorious music can be ‘effectively made accessible to choirs’. Anthony Pryer