Thursday, 5 September 2013

Heaven and Earth - Monteverdi from the King's Consort

Robert King and the King's Consort recorded Monteverdi's complete sacred music Hyperion and on this disc, originally recorded in 2002, they return to Monteverdi, this time for his secular music on the Vivat label. The perform selections from the opera Orfeo and from the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Books of Madrigals. The performers include Caroline Sampson, Rebecca Outram, Julie Cooper, Sarah Connolly, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen, James Gilchrist, Robert Evans and Michael George along with instrumental performers from the King's Consort directed by Robert King.
Robert King and the King's Consort recorded Monteverdi's complete sacred music for Hyperion and on this disc, originally recorded in 2002, they return to Monteverdi for his secular music on the Vivat label. They perform selections from the opera Orfeo and from the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth Books of Madrigals. The performers include Caroline Sampson, Rebecca Outram, Julie Cooper, Sarah Connolly, Diana Moore, Charles Daniels, John Bowen, James Gilchrist, Robert Evans and Michael George along with instrumental performers from the King's Consort directed by Robert King.

They open in arresting manner, with the opening toccata from Orfeo premiered in Mantua in 1607. This is followed by a firm but fluidly flexible performance of Dal mio permesso amato, La Musica's solo from the prologue to Orfeo, sung by Carolyn Sampson.

The Cd booklet includes contemporary descriptions of the way Monteverdi's madrigals were performed at the court in Mantua, and the article by Professor John Whenham makes a convincing link between the expressive and histrionic way the madrigals were performed and the performances of the early operas with many singers being involved in both.

On this disc we get quite a uniform approach to all the music on the disc whether it be operatic or madrigal. Convincingly dramatic, but with a nice focus and sense of line, and quite a smooth texture. And needless to say the performances are all technically superb.

Zefiro torna from Scherzi musicali of 1632, is performed by Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist. A lovely tenor duet with a great interplay between the two voices. Its is catchy but nicely subtle and you sense the performers' enjoyment.

Caroline Sampson and Rebecca Outram perform Ohime, dov'e il mio ben from the Seventh Book of Madrigals (1619). The Seventh and Eighth Books of Madrigals (and the Scherzi Musicali) were published in Venice and probably contain music written after Monteverdi's move to Venice. Sampson and Outram give the madrigal with a lovely sense of line and make the clashes positively tingle. Outram and Sampson also sing Chiome d'oro, from the seventh book, the music for which Monteverdi revised in his six-voiced Beatus vir from 1641. There is a lovely combination of catchy rhythms and beautiful line.

Sarah Connolly sings A Dio, Roma from Monteverdi's final opera L'Incoronazione di Poppea (1643). Connolly's performance is profoundly beautiful and very expressive. She sings with quite a full voice, full of passion but still with a lovely sense of line and fabulous feel for the words.

A Dio, Florida bella is from the Sixth Book of Madrigals published in 1614; in his article in the Cd booklet Professor Whenham suggests that the sixth book can be seen as not only a memorial to the singer Caterina Martinelli but also for Monteverdi's own wife. Martinelli was duet to sing in the premiere of Monteverdi's opera Arianna in 1608, but died beforehand. (The lament from the opera is included in the sixth book), but Monteverdi's wife also died before the publication of the madrigals.

O Dio, Florida bella is a gentle nostalgic piece, given a profoundly beautiful and very strong performance Sampson, Moore, Daniels, Bowen and George with some nice rhythmic pointing and a great empathy for the words. The duet Interrotte spreranze from the Seventh Book of Madrigals is given a passionate performance by Charles Daniels and James Gilchrist. The rather dark opening starts low in the tenor voices, developing into something rather passionate.

Monteverdi arranged the solo Lamento d'Arianna, Lasciatemi morire from his opera Arianna into a five-voiced madrigal published in the seventh book. It is the only part of the opera to survive. Here given a subtle and powerful performance by Sampson, Moore, Daniels, Bowen and George with a fine combination of words and music.

Orfeo's aria Possente spirto from Monteverdi's L'Orfeo is one of the great showpieces from the opera. Daniels is technically brilliant with superb ornamentation. The result is expressive and profoundly moving. The performance clearly displays the thread linking the performance of operas and the madrigals which the Cd intends us to hear.

O Come se gentile from the seventh book is a duet, sung by Sampson and Outram with beautifully intertwining lines, sung with great poise but with full voice and a sense of passion. From the Eighth Book of Madrigals published in 1638 comes Lamento della Ninfa. The eight book was influential on later operas, and here the madrigal receives a powerful but touching performance from Sampson, Daniels, Bowen and George.

Cruda Amarilli comes from the Fifth Book of Madrigals published in 1605. Sampson, Cooper, Daniels, Bowen and George give a vibrant performance with moment of great beauty. Finally Hor che'l ciel, e la terra performed by Sampson, Moore, Daniel, Bowen, Evans and George. It opens in a wonderfully hushed manner developing into something rather dramatic.

Throughout, the singers are supported by the instrumental ensemble drawn from two violins, two violas, bass violin, violine, three chitarrones and guitars, double bass, three organs and harpsichords, two cornetts and three sackbuts. Each item taking a different grouping of instruments. Robert King's direction is understated but you sense a presence encouraging the singers and performers to bring out the beauty, emotion and passion of the music.

The disc was recorded in 2002, and a number of the singers have gone on to make an even greater mark. The Cd booklet includes full texts and translations along with Professor Whenham's illuminating article.

You could listen to this disc as simply a lovely assemblage of Monteverdi's greatest secular music in some enticing performances. Or you can listen with the article Professor Whenham in your head, reflecting on the interaction between Monteverdi's opera and his madrigals. Whichever way, it is a delight

Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Toccata (from Orfeo) [0.39]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Ritornello & Dal mio permesso (from Orfeo) [6.36]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Zefiro torna (from Scherzi musicali) (1632) [5.18]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Ohime, dov'e il mio ben (from Seventh Book of Madrigals) [5.52]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Chiome d'oro (from Seventh Book of Madrigals) [3.05]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - A Dio, Roma (from L'Incoronazione di Poppea) [4.06]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - A Dio, Florida bella (from Sixth Book of Madrigals) [4.14]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Interrotte speranza (from Seventh Book of Madrigals) [3.23]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Lamento d'Arianna 'Lasciatemi morire' (from Sixth Book of Madrigals) [2.18]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Possente spirto (from Orfeo) [9.29]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - O come sei gentile (from Seventh Book of Madrigals) [5.00]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Lamento della Ninfa (from Eighth Book of Madrigals) [6.24]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Cruda Amarilli (from Fifth Book of Madrigals) [2.58]
Claudio Monteverdi (1567 - 1643) - Hor che 'l ciel, e la terra (from Eighth Book of Madrigals) [8.49]
Caroline Sampson (soprano)
Rebecca Outram (soprano)
Julie Cooper (soprano)
Sarah Connolly (mezzo-soprano)
Diana Moore (mezzo-soprano)
Charles Daniels (tenor)
James Gilchrist (tenor)
Robert Evans (bass)
Michael George (bass)
The King's Consort
Robert King (director)
Recorded at St Jude's Church, London, NW11 on January 18 and February 7-10 2002
VIVAT 104 1CD [68.15]

Heaven and Earth - Monteverdi; The Kings Consort
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 05 2013
Rating: 5.0

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