Monteverdi: The Seven Deadly Sins – performed byCappella Mediterranea

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Monteverdi
LABELS: Alpha
ALBUM TITLE: Monteverdi
WORKS: I Setti Peccati Capitali (The Seven Deadly Sins)
PERFORMER: Cappella Mediterranea/Leonardo García Alarcón
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 249

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Heralding the 450th birthday celebrations of Claudio Monteverdi in 2017, Leonardo Garcia Alarcon and Cappella Mediterranea’s dramatic recital disc explores the emotional gamut of Monteverdi’s imagination. An unashamedly clever programme, the seven deadly sins are countered by seven virtues, each ascribed madrigals (Books III, IV and VIII) or opera scenes (L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, L’incoronazione di Poppea). With tracks flowing one to another almost seamlessly, the pacing of the disc is excellent.

These stellar performances from Cappella Mediterranea give the likes of I Fagiolini a run for their money; these musicians display incredible agility between consort and operatic sound, and variety in the individual vocal colours. Despite first-rate performances by both Christopher Lowry and Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro, I was not convinced by their sharing the Nero role over consecutive tracks (‘Pride’ and ‘Greed’); however, as Nero’s soldiers (‘Sloth’), Gonzalez-Toro and Matias Vidal provide exhilarating listening. Mariana Flores’s clarion voice enchants in Si dolce e’l tormento (‘Extravagance’) and Gianluca Buratto’s characterful bass brings an underworld of low tones to the madrigals (‘Lust’, ‘Humility’). Much is made of the colourful instrumental moments, stylish string playing is matched by inventive, melodic, and percussive continuo – demonstrating the group’s Latin roots.

There’s theatre in the approach to recording too, giving a sense of space in the bloomy acoustic; it’s dramatically effective as Irus departs to feast (‘Gluttony’), but occasionally creates inconsistencies in the texture. ‘Rationalisation of emotions through music, and a meditation on human vanity’: so the essential accompanying booklet contextualises and rounds off this classy affair.

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Hannah French