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Monteverdi: Orfeo (Höör Barock)

Johan Linderoth et al; Ensemble Lundabarock; Ensemble Altapunta; Höör Barock/Fredrik Malmberg (BIS)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Johan Linderoth, Kristina Hellgren, Adam Riis, Christine Nonbo Andersen, Anna Zander, Daniel Åberg, Ann-Margret Nyberg; Ensemble Lundabarock; Ensemble Altapunta; Höör Barock/Fredrik Malmberg
BIS BIS-2519 (CD/SACD)   105:39 mins (2 discs)


This vibrant, idiosyncratic Orfeo grew out of a 2018 Lundabarock festival concert performance. Artists from that event, including Fredrik Malmberg directing from the keyboard, tenor Johan Linderoth in the title role and the 14-strong period band Höör Barock, then teamed up with the nine wind players of Ensemble Altapunta for this recording. Monteverdi’s printed score famously lists 41 instruments, yet the two bands’ quality more than compensates for their small numbers.

The singers’ intensity – and the bold, sometimes unusual distribution of instrumental parts – distinguish this Orfeo from earlier recordings. Linderoth probes Orfeo’s vulnerability from first bar to last: expanding climactic notes, dashing through passages in excitement and stopping short when overtaken by passion, he delivers raw feeling rather than the poised vocalism of star Orfeos like Ian Bostridge or Charles Daniels. He occasionally works his line a bit too hard, as in ‘Possente spirto’, where his seriousness pre-empts spontaneity. Among the other excellent singers, Christine Nonbo Andersen (as Eurydice) and mezzo-soprano Anna Zander (as Speranza) stand out for their delicacy and suppleness.

The band adds its own character: percussionist Per Nord jazzes up the sinfonias, lilting strings and duetting recorders convey pastoral delights, wind instruments set fanfares ablaze and sackbuts snarl ominously in the underworld scenes. Yet it is Malmberg’s energy that gives this performance a brilliant edge as, appropriately for the Orpheus myth, he takes his fellow artists and his audiences to unexpected places.


Berta Joncus