Tuesday 26 September 2017

Daring: Fieri Consort's Tears of a lover

Fieri Consort - Tears of a Lover
Monteverdi, Ben Rowarth, Marenzio, Ingegneri; Fieri Consort; Fieri Records
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Sep 19 2017 Star rating: 5.0
Ancient and modern combine in Ben Rowarth's contemporary response to Monteverdi's Arianna

The Fieri Consort's debut disc (on the group's own label) rather daringly combines Monteverdi's classic madrigal sequent Lamento d'Arianna with Ben Rowarth's contemporary response The Turn interleaving the Monteverdi and Rowarth to create a striking sequence. The CD is completed with a further pair of madrigals by Monteverdi and by his teacher Marc'Antonio Ingegneri, and Luca Marenzio's madrigal sequence Se quel dolor. The Fieri Consort are Hannah Ely, Lucy Cox, Nancy Cole, Helen Charlston, Josh Cooter, Tom Kelly, David Maguire and Ben McKee, and they are joined by Alison Kinder (viol) and Aileen Henry (Renaissance harp).

They start with Monteverdi's Interotte speranza, from the Seventh Book of Madrigals, in which two voices sing in a hushed manner creating something dark and intense. The relatively leisurely speed allows the singers to savour the detail of Monteverdi's writing, and to relish the dissonances. This very much characterises the Fieri Consort's approach, never slow but with enough time to shape the detail and with Monteverdi's daring harmonies to the fore. Marc'Antonio Ingegneri's Io non hebbi giamai pace ne tregua has similar virtues in a strong, vibrant performance.

The Monteverdi/Rowarth sequence takes the four Monteverdi madrigals and follows each with a Rowarth one, so we start with Monteverdi's Lasciatemi morire and finish with Rowarth's Ohime bei viso. If Monteverdi and Rinuccini create an intense sequence of lamenting for Arianna, then Rowarth writes from the perspective of the departing Teseo, The Turn taking place in the split second when Teseo, unable to ignore Arianna, looks her in the eye and realises his mistake too late.

The opening Monteverdi madrigal, Lasciatemi morire is mesmerising, it is phrased intensely and sung with vibrant tone. Rowarth's O sguardo has the same sense of intensity and the relishing of the dissonance. Rowarth writes intelligent contemporary polyphony, and this movement has an hypnotic use of repetition along with a haunting use of major/minor. There are knotty moments, but also melting ones. Monteverdi's O Teseo, Teseo mio has a strong sense of the music (and text's rhetoric), whilst Rowarth's Dolce spirto d'amore uses a similar variation in texture and vocal techniques, as well as elaborate solo moments which recall Monteverdi's writing (though the style is different). There is some tricky stuff here, and the singers move from Monteverdi to Rowarth and back with admirable fluency. Monteverdi's Dove, dove e la fede shows the singers using quite a laid-back framework in which to focus on highly responsive and vibrant details, and the music seems to flow effortlessly into Rowarth's Lasciate mi morire where Rowarth daringly dissolves Monteverdi's textures, and intensifies things with the cries of 'leave me to die'. The final Monteverdi madrigal, Ahi ch'ei no pur risponde is suitably vibrant and intense, leading to the slow unwinding of Rowarth's Ohime bei viso.

This is a highly daring sequence but one that works, partly because of Rowarth's intelligent emotional response to Monteverdi's music and partly because of the vibrant commitment and focus of the singers.

The Fieri Consort completes the disc with Marenzio's Se quel dolor setting a chapter by the Petrarchan poet Luigi Tansillo. Dedicated to the Duchess of Ferrara, the work is rather dark and sombre, hardly the light, sweetly flowing Marenzio of the earlier madrigals. But this is a composer at the height of his powers, and Marenzio uses all the techniques which he has learned in his earlier madrigals yet puts them to more serious, more intense usage. The results are perhaps less daring than Monteverdi, and here Marenzio is using six voices rather than  combination of voices and instruments. But the Fieri Consort gives a highly responsive response, highly text based. Seductive in its sound world, yet full of vibrant details.

This is a highly impressive debut, the group does not shy away from using individual voices in a vibrant manner yet the whole is beautifully and thoughtfully knitted together. There is a similar daring in the combination of Monteverdi and Rowarth.

The disc is released on 29 September 2017

Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) - Interrote speranza
Marc'Antonio Ingegneri (1547-1592) - Io non hebbi giamai pace ne tregua
Claudio Monteverdi - Lamento d'Arianna
Ben Rowarth (born 1992) - The Turn
Luca Marenzio (1553-1599) - Se quel dolor
The Fieri Consort (Hannah Ely, Lucy Cox, Nancy Cole, Helen Charlston, Josh Cooter, Tom Kelly, David Maguire and Ben McKee)
Alison Kinder (viol)
Aileen Henr (renaissance harp)
Recorded at St Matthew's Church, Bethnal Green, London, 27-20 September 2016
 Available from Amazon. (from 29 September)

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