The Monteverdi Circle

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Grabbe,Scarlatti,Ward
LABELS: Musica Oscura
PERFORMER: Consort of Musicke/Anthony Rooley
CATALOGUE NO: 070989 DDD

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Musica Oscura, Rooley’s own label, allows him to unveil some exquisite musk.; The riches of the ongoing series ‘The Monteverdi Circle’ include 21 settings of a single poem, Guarini’s lament ‘Cor mio, deh non languire’. Far from a daunting expression of unrelieved melancholy, these reveal remarkably inventive madrigals and solo songs, notably by a German, Johann Grabbe, an Englishman, John Ward, and by Alessandro Scarlatti writing in a consciously anachronistic style a hundred years later than the earliest setting. Another ‘Monteverdi Circle’ disc takes poems from Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberate, drama and passion, myth and history from the First Crusade.

Outstanding are Giaches de Wert’s extended account of Armida seducing Rinaldo with her magic and, in Monteverdi’s own setting, her crazed outburst at his desertion—her weeping evoked by poignant, unashamed glissandi. Throughout, the Consort of Musicke is highly polished, exquisite intonation flexing, as it must, in the ongoing polyphony, and settling on the sweetest of velvety cadences. ‘The Purcell Circle’ is similarly confined to one 17th-century best-selling poet, Abraham Cowley, in 23 delightfully varied guises.

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‘The Orpheus Circle’, though, is free-standing: Emma Kirkby selects 11 of her favourite songs, from the familiar—Caccini’s’ Amarilli mia bella’ – to the unknown – John Weldon’s enchanting lave song "Nature Framed Thee’, in which Venus wins her Paris, Kiriby’s deft and agile vocalising creates a wonderful sense of spontaneitywhile Evelyn Tubb focuses on die 17th-century fashion for The Mad Lover’ with manic gasps and wide-eyed naivety in sotto voce reflections, earning for these two discs our ‘Outstanding’ logo. George Pratt