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Cantatas for Soprano
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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643) I 7 Peccati Capitali (Seven Deadly Sins)
Mariana Flores; Francesca Aspromonte (soprano); Christopher Lowrey (countertenor); Emiliano Gonzalez-Toro; Mathias Vidal (tenor); Gianluca Buratto (bass)
Cappella Mediterranea/Leonardo García Alarcón
rec. Temple de Le Sentier, Vallée De Joux (Switzerland), during le Cadre des Rencontres Musicales de la Vallée de Joux, April 2016.
Texts and translations included ALPHA 249 [72:24]
Cappella Mediterranea has already made several distinguished recordings, including a Monteverdi Vespers for the Ambronay label (review), and their Carmina Latina album for the Ricercar label (review). This is the first of Leonardo García Alarcón’s recordings for Alpha Classics, and it marks the 450th anniversary of Monteverdi's birth.
This is both an original programme of music by one of Alarcón’s favourite composers and a kind of sampler of Monteverdi's music - both the placing of arias and madrigals in a new context, and providing an introduction that can and should lead to further exploration. Monteverdi never wrote a work called I 7 Peccati Capitali, but this anthology alternates between sins and virtues, resulting in fourteen superbly performed and recorded tracks
of pieces from L’incoronazione di Poppea, Il ritorno d’Ulisse, Orfeo, the madrigals, and including an excerpt from the Selva morale e Spirituale.
The booklet notes, presented in a gorgeously illustrated hardback cover, start with Alarcón’s own comments on 'Monteverdi or the Garden of Delights.' He sums up L’incoronazione di Poppea as "perhaps the most amoral opera in the history of music," while "offering a moral remedy to vice, in the madrigals of the Selva morale."
Beyond concerns of vice and sanctity, this is the kind of album which you can kick off your shoes, sit back and revel in: following the texts in translation so you know what's going on if that has priority. With both excellent singing and acting, the vocal performances are second to none, and it's certainly worth being made aware of the emotional depth, irony and wit in both Monteverdi's settings and the performances themselves. Each track runs with a logical progression to the next, each cleverly chosen to suit the tonality of the last and to provide both contrast and continuity.
Purists may sniff a little at such a compilation of music from disparate sources, but they will be missing out on a real treat if they avoid this release. More than just a collection of highlights, this is a well-judged programme that creates its own narrative, from the opening ‘Hope’ to a finale that champions ‘Courage’ via Nero's lustful desires and designs on Poppea. There are plenty of other dramas and virtues along the way. This is a delectable box of musical treasures that you will certainly want to open more than once.
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