MONTEVERDI: A MUSICAL PROPHET.
Even after three centuries, the music of Monteverdi glows with the passionate genius of a musical prophet. He was far ahead of his day in his conception of music as a dramatic expressive art and in the realization of that conception. In his First Book of Madrigals(written at the age of fifteen years) there are already premonitions of musical revolt. Monteverdi's vision embraced all the arts converging on one---the opera. In trying to make that vision a reality, he blazed a trail followed by composers in every land for centuries after.
In all Monteverdi published seven volumes of Madrigals. From Book Two of 1590, a collection of five-voice madrigals, comes 'Crudel,perche mi fuggi' (Cruel one, why shun me). Book Three of the madrigals published in 1591, is followed by Book Four in 1603, which includes 'Ohime, se tanto' (Alas, if you so love). Book Five was published in 1605 and includes 'Cruda Amarilli, che col nome ancora' (Cruel Amaryllis, your very name suggests the bitterness of love). All of these are sung expertly by the all-male ensemble Delitiae Musicae, director Marco Longhini.
Monteverdi wrote his first opera 'Orfeo', performed in 1607 from which we have two excerpts: 'Toccata' and 'Scorto da te'. Although this was not the first opera, it may be accounted the first opera that, in revival, has held its own, including as it does, compelling music by this great master of the early Italian Baroque.
This collection is gifted with two exquisite 'laments' from two of his compositions: 'Lamento di'Olimpia' sung by countertenor Fabio Furnari who, though he sung it well, his tone quality in his low register was extremely 'heavy' and rather annoyed me, but that's just my personal reaction.'Lamento d'Arianna' contains Monteverdi's most sublime aria 'Lasciatemi morire' (Let me die), composed a year after the death of his wife. The poignant intensity of this cry of grief still moves to tears those who hear it and the voice of the countertenor Paulo Costa sings it with the emotional fervor that it demands. Costa's countertenor is strong and even throughout the registers and is a great contrast to Furnari's voice.
There are two excerpts from the well-known and much recorded 'Vespers of the Blessed Virgin'; actually this is owned by John Eliot Gardiner and his Monteverdi Singers, although the Scholar's Baroque Ensemble,director Sergio Vartolo, presents a good execution of the two exceprts: 'Domine, ad adiuvandum' and the Concerto 'Duo Seraphim'.
The recording concludes with three selections performed by Concerto delle Dame Ensemble, directed by Vartolol The performance of all three of the major contributors is skilled and stylistically correct and for the most part well done. Some notable soloists are Alessandro Carmignani, a superb tenor who possesses a voice with great resonance and intensity as you will hear, especially in 'Scorto da te' from Orfeo. Paulo Costa previously mentioned sings five selections from 'Lamento d'Arianna'. There are female voices on this recording that you will hear most obviously in the final three selections, two of which are from Monteverdi's collection 'Scherzi musicali a tre voci' scored for three female voices who rendered it very beautifully. Everything is accompanied with period instruments appropriate to the music.
As collections go, this is a good one! The program encompasses much of Monteverdi's more significant works, that is as much as is possible on one disc. AND it is quite entertaining if one remembers that it is indeed a 'smattering' and that's all, so the buyer should keep that in mind. The accompanying information is informative and in English, but no text and does not include specifics such as what singers are in the three main groups, but that information is easily accessed on the internet.