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Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567-1643)
Madrigali & Selva morale
Les Arts Florissants/William Christie
rec. Mas de Vert, F-13200 Arles, France, December 1980, September 1982, July 1987 and December 1992.
HARMONIA MUNDI HMX2908772.75 [4 CDs: 223:42]

As the celebrations of the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi gather pace, here comes the reissue of the discs that started my love affair with his wonderful music. Yes, I had had recordings of the madrigals beforehand, but all seemed lifeless and stilted in comparison. Here with the first release was an interpretation that breathed life into the works, a recording that made them sound fresh and vibrant, one to enjoy. This was something that was continued with the subsequent recordings, all of which I bought, all but one mysteriously disappearing from my shelf over the years. So, I thankfully relished the chance to review this set, and I am glad to say that my admiration for these discs has not diminished over the years.

Never mind that the discs did not contain a complete book per se. The first offered selections from Libro VII and Libro VIII, something that Christie revisits in all but one of these discs. I did not care. It was the performances that made the discs special, setting me on a road of discovery, one which would take in complete accounts of Monteverdi’s madrigals and single discs as well. Each of these discs held memories for me, with specific tracks standing out. I remember a friend playing me the first track of the first of these discs, Altri canti di Marte (Libro VIII), and my eyes were opened to what this music could sound like.

There are many highlights in this set, from the opening track of the first disc, the Prima parte: Incererite spoglie of Sestina (Libro Settimo) on disc 2, the wonderful Gloria from the Selva morale that opens disc 3, to my favourite among Monteverdi’s madrigals, Zefiro torna, a due voci, from the problematic Book IX. Here, however, Christie employs the two tenors, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt and Mark Padmore in the vocal roles. Whilst I find it an excellent and rewarding performance, I do prefer the balance created by the mezzo soprano Helga Müller-Molinari and the counter tenor of René Jacobs, when the Concerto Vocale recorded the madrigal a couple of years later (HMC 901129).

This is a wonderful set, one that brings back so many happy memories, and one I look forward to listening to again and again. The performances are first-rate, with all the singers and instrumentalists committed to their art. The sound is very good, as are the notes. My only gripe is that the sung texts are only translated into French, which is a real shame. It is no problem for me—I have them on other discs—but for someone coming to these works anew this might prove a problem. It is always good to have translations at hand, especially for pieces such as Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, when it is nigh on essential.

Stuart Sillitoe

Disc 1
1 Altri canti di Marte (Libro VIII) [7:55]
2 Perchè t'en fuggi o Fillide (Libro VIII) [4:58]
3 Chiome d'oro, Canzonetta (Libro VII) [2:58]
4 Hor ch'el ciel e la terra (Libro VIII) [7:54]
5 Lamento della Ninfa (Libro VIII) [5:44]
6 Gira il nemico (Libro VIII) [5:48]
7 Amor che deggio far (Libro VII) [3:57]
8 Ballo: Tirsi e Clori (Libro VII) [8:11]
Disc 2
Il Ballo delle Ingrate
(Madrigals from Book VIII)

1 Ouverture [1:38]
2 Amore "De l'implacabil Dio" [1:03]
3 Sinfonia [0:33]
4 Venere "Udite, Donne, udite" [2:32]
5 Plutone "Bella madre d'Amor" [11:07]
6 Amore e Venere "Ecco ver noi" [3:15]
7 Ballo [4:48]
8 Plutone "Dal tenebroso orror" [7:28]
9 Ballo [2:33]
10 Una delle Ingrate "Ahi troppo è duro" [4:21]
Lagrime d'Amante al Sepolcro dell'Amata
(Madrigals from Book VI)

11 Prima parte "Incenerite spoglie" [2:30]
12 Seconda parte "Ditelo voi" [1:53]
13 Terza parte "Darà la notte il sol" [2:28]
14 Quarta parte "Ma te raccoglie" [2:55]
15 Quinta parte "O chiome d'or" [2:30]
16 Sesta et ultima parte "Dunque amate reliquie" [3:30]
Disc 3
Selva morale
Florilège / Anthology
1 Gloria [12:30]
2 Chi vol che m'innamori [7:47]
3 O ciechi ciechi [3:47]
4 Adoramus [3:34]
5 Confitebor terzo alla francese [6:31]
6 Confitebor tibi Domine [12:57]
7 Laudate Dominum [2:43]
8 E questa vita un lampo [2:32]
9 Beatus vir [7:'21]
Disc 4
1 Il combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda
Libro ottavo, prima parte (Madrigali guerrieri), 1638. Tasso [18:12
2 Mentre vaga Angioletta, a doi tenori
Libro ottavo, seconda parte (Madrigali amorosi), 1638. Guarini [9:03]
3 Con che soavità, labbra odorate, Concertato a uno voce e 9 instrumenti
Concerto Settimo libro de madrigali, 1619. Guarini [5:03]
4 Eri già tutta mia [2:34]
5 Quel sguardo sdegnosetto
Scherzi musicali, 1632 [2:20]
6 Tu dormi? Ah crudo core a 4
Concerto settimo libro de madrigali, 1619 [2:44]
7 Presso un fiume tranquillo, Dialogo a 7 concertato
Il sesto libro de madrigali, 1614. Marino [4:58]
8 Zefiro torna, e di soavi accenti, a doi tenori
Madrigali e canzonette [Libro nono], 1651. Rinuccini [5:32]
9 O come sei gentile, caro augellino, a doi soprani
Concerto Settimo libro de madrigali, 1619. Guarini [3:59]
10 Ardo, avvampo, mi struggo, a 8 voci con doi violini
Libro ottavo, prima parte (Madrigali guerrieri), 1638 [3:36]



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