Tuesday 4 April 2017

Monteverdi Madrigals: volume 3 Venezia

Monteverdi Magrigals: volume 3 Venezia
Monteverdi madrigals from books seven and eight; Les Arts Florissants, Paul Agnew; Harmonia Mundi
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Mar 23 20175.0
A short but intensely vivid selection from Monteverdi's final books of madrigals

This latest volume is the last of Les Art Florissants' exploration of madrigals by Monteverdi on Harmonia Mundi. Directed by Paul Agnew the group performs a selection of madrigals from Monteverdi's Libro Settimo and Libro Ottavo with 'Al lume de le stelle', 'Con che soavita',  'Chiome d'oro', 'Interrotte speranze', 'Lettera amorosa', 'Ballo: Tirsi e Clori', 'Altri canti d'Amor', 'Dolcissimo usignolo', 'Lamento de la ninfa', and 'Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda'. The recording was made live at the group's concerts in Paris (with some patching) and Paul Agnew directs two differing groups of singers and instrumentalists for the madrigals from the seventh and eighth volumes.

Whilst Monteverdi published his sixth volume of madrigals soon after his arrival in Venice in 1613, the contents were substantially written for the Ducal court in Mantua. But the seventh book, published in 1619, has works mainly written in Venice. There is another difference, whereas earlier books had been for five voices, book seven had works for different groupings of one, two, three, four and six voices probably influenced by the work of younger colleagues in Venice. This continued with the massive eighth book, published nearly 20 years later in 1638, Madrigali guerrieri et amorosi, which represents the summation of Monteverdi's art and his use of the latest styles of solo voice writing. In fact the material in the book stretches back over Monteverdi's entire career with 'Il ballo delle ingrate' dating originally from 1608 for the wedding of Francesco Gonzaga, but the work was revived in Venice in 1628.

The main problem with this recording is that there is only a single disc, a 75 minute selection when we could easily have had double (as an idea of what we are missing, there is a complete performance of Book Eight on YouTube).
Paul Agnew has chosen a selection of the madrigals which mixes the well known with the lesser known, After an opening sinfonia we have the little known Tasso setting 'Al lume delle stelle' a four voiced traditional madrigal which is followed by  'Con che soavita' where the solo voice, the wonderfully focused and quietly intense Miriam Allen, and continuo interact with a choir of nine instruments. 'Chiome d'oro', sung engagingly by Allan and Mhairi Lawson, is one of Monteverdi's best known works, which contrasts with the far dark 'Interrotte speranze', sung by with hypnotic intensity Zachary Wilder and Paul Agnew. 'Lettera amorosa' is one of Monteverdi's most advanced works, written for solo voice and instrumental ensemble Monteverdi instructs it to be sung in the representative style, without a beat, suggesting declamation and it receives an intense, dramatic reading from Lucille Richardot. The group from the seventh volume concludes with a truly engaging account of the ballo, 'Tirsi e Clori'

From Book Eight we hear a highly affecting account of 'Altri canti'Damor' followed by 'Dolcissimo usignolo' where Agnew has interpreted the instruction to perform it in the French style by having the solo soprano entering alone and the other voices joining. 'Lamento de la ninfa' is again one of Monteverdi's best known madrigals, and the performers follow Monteverdi's instructions by having the men (Paul Agnew, Sean Clayton, Cyril Costanzo) strictly metrical whilst the solo soprano sings with greater freedom. Finally we have a vivid performances of 'Tancredi e Clorinda' with Paul Agnew as a stunning Testo, supported by Hannah Morrison as Clorinda and Sean Clayton as Tancredi.

The live nature of the recordings brings an immediacy and a highly engaging quality to these performances. We are often vibrantly in the moment, and Monteverdi's concern to represent the emotions of the text in the music is paramount. Throughout we are aware that the performers are highly alert to the text, and the sense of Monteverdi's combination of music with poetic declamation which comes over. The singers are of a variety of nationalities, but all combine in their sheer relish for the poetic Italian texts.

The pieces are recorded moderately closely which conveys the sense of being in a small chamber with the performers, and the thrillingly vivid performances bring the music alive.

Libro Settimo
Miriam Allan (soprano), Mhairi Lawson (soprano), Lucile Richardot (contralto), Paul Agnew (tenor), Zachary Wilder (tenor), Lisandro Abadie (bass), Tami Troman & Benjamin Scherer (violin) Jean-Luc Thonnerieux & Samantha Montgomery (viola), Atsushi Sakai (viola da gamba), Joseph Carver (violone), Sebastien Marq & Michelle Tellier (flute), Massimo Moscardo & Thomas Dunford (archlute), Marie Van Rhijn (harpsichord), Forian Carre (harpsichord / organ)

Libro Ottavo
Hannah Morrison (soprano), Miriam Allan (soprano), Lucile Richardot (contralto), Paul Agnew (tenor), Sean Clayton (tenor), Lisandro Abadie (bass), Cyril Costanzo (bass), Myriam Gevers & Sophie Gevers-Demoures (violin), Galina Zinchenko & Simon Heyerick (viola), Juliette Guignaard (viola da gamba), Richard Myron (violone), Nanja Breedijk (harp), Massimo Moscardo (lute), Andre Henrich (theorbo), Marie Van Rhijn (harpsichord), Forian Carre (harpsichord / organ)

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) - Seventh Book of Madrigals (excerpts)
Claudio Monteverdi - Eighth Book of Madrigals (excerpts)
Les Arts Florissants
Paul Agnew (director)
Recorded May 2014, April-May 2015 at Cite de la Musique, & Philharmonie, Paris
Harmonia Mundi HAF 8905278 1CD [74.44]
Available from Amazon.

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