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Rinaldo Alessandrini
CD1: Monteverdi
CD2: 1600
see end of review for details
Concerto Italiano/Rinaldo Alessandrini
rec. 2005/11
NAÏVE NC40042 [63:50 + 67:00]

These two discs are packaged together in a slip-case emblazoned with the name of the director, Rinaldo Alessandrini, as part of Naïve's 15th Anniversary celebration. They derive from two entirely different recording sessions by mostly different musicians - despite the name Concerto Italiano on both. One has to investigate the notes with each to deduce that the idea is to celebrate the work of this group and director in presenting music of the pre-baroque era so successfully for many years. I stress that this is my deduction; it doesn't say so anywhere.
The Monteverdi CD is performed with wondrous control and energy by this expert group. The booklet has thorough notes and full English and French translations of the Italian text. Anyone not possessing this set of Monteverdi's music, some of it hair-raisingly inventive, can safely invest in this one. My only proviso is that the closely-miked recordings are a little lacking in space around the voices. The other disc is a rather interesting oddity, obviously intended to supplement the Monteverdi by giving a context . The string players provide a sequence of instrumental music roughly in order of composition, from the fifty or so years either side of the Sixth Book of Madrigals. This illustrates the way instrumental works moved away from pure accompaniment and took on a life of their own. So we start with Fantasies, Canzone and Capriccios and move through to Sonatas, Ballet Suites and ultimately to Sinfonias and Concertos. All the pieces are short and if heard at a single sitting one can hear the change from music very like that written for a consort of viols to suites of movements akin to the concertos of Corelli and Vivaldi. Many of the composers are probably unknown to most listeners, one is indeed anonymous. You will be as pleasantly surprised as I was by Gasparo Zanetti's ballet music and Dall'abaco's Concerto a Quattro. Nothing here rises to the heights of Vivaldi, Corelli or even Albinoni but it does fill an aural gap in one's appreciation of how we got from Monteverdi to Handel and Bach.
A very small criticism of the recording: the harpsichord is not always in tune with the strings and there are occasional sour chords as a result. The recording is once again a bit close, but all is clean and clear. Naïve have given no number on the slipcase for this pair of discs so just the separate numbers are cited above.
Dave Billinge  

Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali (1614)
rec. Palazzo Farnese, Rome, Italy, December 2005
Music for two violins, viola, cello, theorbo and continuo by Anonimo, Bononcini, Castello, Dall'abaco, Frescobaldi, Gabrieli, Legrenzi, de Macque, Marini, Merula, Salvatore, Torelli and Zanetti
rec. Pontifico Istituto di Musica Sacra, Rome, Italy, March 2011  

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